M A I N   N E W S

US may give non-NATO ally status to India
Vasantha Arora

Washington, March 23
The US has expressed its willingness to explore the possibility of declaring India a Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA) status, similar to the status it has promised in the case of Pakistan.

“Well, I think we made it clear that we’re willing to explore the same possibility of similar cooperation with India. That’s something we’ve made clear,” White House spokesman Scott McClellan said in reply to a question at a briefing here yesterday.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell had announced during his visit to Islamabad last week that the US planned to confer the “major non-NATO ally” status on Pakistan in recognition of its cooperation against terrorism, especially in Afghanistan.

The statement said Powell expressed satisfaction with the growing US-India strategic partnership in several “wide-ranging areas, most recently demonstrated by the announcement in January of enhanced joint efforts in the areas of civil space, civil nuclear and high-tech cooperation”.

“The US will continue to build strong bilateral relationships with India and Pakistan. Each of these relationships stands on its own merits,” the statement noted.

Following are the questions and answers from the White House briefing.

Q: Scott, can you please clarify two reports? One, last month when the president (George W. Bush) made an announcement in Mexico that US is giving India a special status partnership. Now last week, Secretary Powell was in Pakistan. He announced a special status with Pakistan, non-NATO status. What’s the difference between the two? Are they the same? Or is this opening the door for Pakistan to buy US weapons, or (things) remain the same between the two countries, or triangle?

McClellan: I’m sorry, does what remain the same with the two countries?

Q: The triangle — having same relationship with the US, or is this special status with Pakistan, non-NATO alliance or allies?

McClellan: Well, I think we made it clear that we’re willing to explore the same possibility of similar cooperation with India. That’s something we’ve made clear. — IANS


Powell calls up Sinha; tries to placate India
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 23
United States Secretary of State Colin Powell telephoned External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha on Sunday and explained Washington’s position regarding its decision to bestow Major Non-NATO Ally (MNNA) status on Pakistan.

“Secretary Powell referred to the way in which the US announcement about designating Pakistan as a MNNA had emerged and said that their intention had not been to spring a surprise on India,” Foreign Office spokesman Navtej Sarna said in response to a question today.

Mr Sarna, when asked to comment to comment on a report on Powell-Sinha conversation, said the report was “not an accurate characterisation of the conversation” between them.

Asked to respond to media reports quoting US President George Bush offering India “the same status” (MNNA), the spokesman said: “We have not given any consideration to that kind of relationship with the United States.”

The spokesman said Mr Powell “had been trying to reach External Affairs Minister since March 19 but EAM had not been able to receive his calls as he was engaged in campaigning.”

Responding to a question about India-US-Israel forming a strategic alliance, the spokesman said: “Let us not mix issues. That issue has been explained to you on several occasions. The context in which that statement was made was in the context of democracies and democracies fighting terrorism.”

Earlier in the day, US Ambassador to India, Mr David C. Mulford, today said Washington’s relationship with India and Pakistan stood on their own merits in each case and the US “will continue to build strong relationships with India and Pakistan”.

“Mr Powell has indicated that this decision will facilitate cooperation between the US and Pakistan in the war against terrorism. This is also an objective that India shares,” the new American Ambassador to India David Mulford said here while addressing a CII luncheon meeting on “India-US Relations”, his first public address here after assuming office last month.

Mr Powell’s announcement in Islamabad had led to a sharp reaction from New Delhi which said it was disappointing that he did not share with the Indian Government the Bush administration’s decision while he was here.

Yesterday, the US State Department had issued a statement concerning the close and productive partnership between the US and India, based on a long-term commitment to common values and shared goals.

Mr Mulford said Mr Powell had already stated that Washington’s decision to accord “major non-NATO ally status” to Pakistan would facilitate cooperation between the two countries in the war against terrorism. “This is (also) an objective India shares,” he added. He said the US fully supported the Indo-Pak peace process.

The American Ambassador remained non-committal on supporting India’s candidature for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council. “It is premature to think of moving further with the expansion of the Security Council at this stage...There are no immediate plans to expand it,” he said and added that Washington would review its policy as and when there was any proposal to enlarge the UN.

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