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India cautions USA on arms for Pak
We are conscious, says Rumsfeld
Rajeev Sharma and Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 9
The Indian leadership today told the visiting US Defence Secretary, Mr Donald Rumsfeld, that the American arms sales to Pakistan could impact the positive sentiment and goodwill for the USA in India.

However, India did not seek a review of the US decision nor did any suo motu assurance to this effect come from Mr Rumsfeld, sources said.

On his part, Mr Rumsfeld said Washington did not see its relations with India and Pakistan as a zero-sum game, which in simple language means that Washington looks at its bilateral relations with India and Pakistan as two separate sets of relationships.

During his brief visit, Mr Rumsfeld called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and held discussions with External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh, Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee and National Security Adviser J. N. Dixit.

Mr Rumsfeld told the Indian leadership that the USA understood the Indian sensitivities in this regard and would remain continually in touch.

For the record, India expressed concern over the repercussions of US arms supply to Pakistan on the ongoing India-Pakistan dialogue, currently poised at a sensitive juncture. It was noted that Indo-US relations had seen significant transformation during President Bush’s first term and that the USA was now perceived as a strategic partner.

The issue of US arms sales to Pakistan came up when the two sides shared their perspectives on their respective ties with Pakistan.

“We attach importance to the visit of Mr Rumsfeld. This is the first visit at the Cabinet level after the re-election of President George Bush. Defence cooperation has imparted a significant impetus to the emerging Indo-US strategic partnership. The role played by the Department of Defence in the growth of our bilateral ties was recognised during the discussions today,” MEA spokesperson Navtej Sarna said.

During the discussions, the two sides laid considerable emphasis on the maintenance of the strategic focus of the Indo-US relationship and used this opportunity to review the current bilateral defence cooperation.

The two sides expressed satisfaction at the rapid growth of this relationship, including the effective working of the dialogue mechanism, military contacts, exercises, visits, education and training.

Both Mr Mukherjee and Mr Rumsfeld refused to take any questions from the media.

Though the two leaders were tight-lipped about the issues discussed at the meeting, officials said the two countries were close to reaching an agreement on the US Navy providing assistance to Indian submarines in case of distress on the high seas. The two countries were also involved in a dialogue for the supply of a US missile defence system based on Patriot missiles and for the supply of deep-sea rescue vehicles.

However, sources said while India wanted to purchase the advanced PCA-3 version of Patriot missiles, the USA was offering the PCA-2 version, an updated version of PCA-1 used in the two Gulf wars.

Mr Natwar Singh had told Parliament yesterday that India had not given any commitment about its participation in missile defence. “At this stage, we are being given technical briefings and presentations on missile defence by the USA,” he said.

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