NEW DELHI, Oct 24: In a significant change from recent policy Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday ruled out being part of the controversial US-led missile defence system, opposed by countries like Russia and China.

“India does not take part in such military arrangement. Therefore the question of our participation does not arise,” Mr Mukherjee was quoted by Pres Trust of India as saying during a joint press conference in Harbin, China, at the conclusion of the third stand-alone trilateral meeting of foreign ministers of India, China and Russia.

The comment was significant since in May 2001, then foreign minister Jaswant Singh had turned back from New Delhi’s standard criticism of the US missile initiative which it had thought would destabilise global security and lead to the militarisation of outer space. But Mr Singh suddenly made a U-turn and announced India’s support for Washington’s Ballistic Missile Defence plans even ahead of its Nato allies. He claimed that the US agreed to help India with its own BMD.

Mr Mukherjee’s comments came amid reports that Moscow had cold shouldered his bilateral visit there recently and had not been too warm with some other visitors from New Delhi, possibly because of India’s growing military ties with the United States.

After the trilateral annual talks, Mr Mukherjee emphasised that the issue of missile defence did not come up for discussions at the trilateral meeting he had with his Chinese and Russian counterparts, Yang Jiechi and Sergei Lavrov, respectively.

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