ISLAMABAD, Sept 24: Pakistan on Monday censured the holding of joint India-UK military exercises in the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir and also termed the Indian-sponsored trekking expedition in the conflict zone of Siachen an “illegal” step.

Responding to a question about the joint India-UK military exercises in Ladakh and Indian plan to conduct similar exercises with the UK in the Siachen area, Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam told a weekly news briefing: “Yes, we are aware of it and we feel that this is not a legitimate activity because Ladakh is part of Jammu and Kashmir which is an internationally recognised disputed territory. Britain, more than anyone else, should be aware of it.”

The spokesperson disclosed that last week Pakistan had made demarches to both the British and the Indian governments.

Referring to the text of the two demarches she added: “This was done last week here in Islamabad with the British High Commission and also in London. We made a demarche to the Indian High Commission and also conveyed our demarche to the Indian Government in Delhi.”

Challenging the Indian contention about opening of Siachen for tourists’ trekking Ms Aslam argued: “Firstly, if India has sent any trekking teams to Siachen in the past or if India is insistent on doing so now, this does not make it a legitimate step.”

She asserted: “Indian military ingression into Siachen, Indian military presence there and any activity that it sponsors in this area is illegal because Indian presence in Siachen is in clear violation of the Simla Agreement, it is illegal and it is unacceptable.”

When asked what options Pakistan had to address this issue after India’s clear refusal to heed Islamabad’s protest over it and whether the government planned to raise the matter with the international community, she said: “We have a composite dialogue process and Siachen is one of the issues being discussed there. We will certainly raise it in the composite dialogue.”

The spokesperson ruled out the possibility of Pakistan taking military action against the Indian move in Siachen when asked about it.

“No, we are not considering any military action. We have already said we have made a demarche and we intend to raise it in the composite dialogue.”

ARRESTS IN US: Asked, if the government was in touch with the US authorities regarding the arrest of many Pakistanis in Maryland in a sting operation against money laundering, spokesperson Tasnim Aslam said: “Our embassy is also looking into it and the ministry has instructed the mission to seek consular access if these are Pakistani nationals and also find other details.”She said they might not be Pakistani nationals as the term used was Pakistani origin.

Referring to the reports in a US newspaper about claims by unidentified intelligence officials, a question was asked as to what had prompted the US to express reservations about the situation in the tribal areas given that the US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte during his recent visit here had supported Pakistan’s three-pronged strategy, the spokesperson said: “There is no official statement. What the LA Times and maybe also the Washington Times have reported is a statement by some anonymous intelligence official. We do not attach much importance to such statements.”

She told the questioner: “We look at what the US administration is saying and you have yourself referred to Mr Negroponte’s statement last week.”

Asked, if there was any truth to the reports that there may be some troop withdrawal in the tribal areas, the spokesperson said: “No, I have no such information.”

NUKE: When Ms Aslam’s comments were sought on reports that a member of the A.Q. Khan network had recently been arrested by the South African government and whether the government of Pakistan still maintained the pardon of Dr A.Q. Khan, her response was: “First of all, somebody caught in South Africa was not necessarily part of the so-called A.Q. Khan network. There is no A.Q. Khan network. There are international proliferation networks.”

Strongly objecting to the term “A.Q. Khan Network” Ms Aslam stated: “Proliferation has taken place internationally. We have taken strong action and we expect other nations to take strong action against proliferation. This could be part of the action being taken by South Africa and it is good that other countries are also taking action.”She said that proliferation had been taking place since 1945.

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