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US alerted on arms deals by India

November 16, 2003

WASHINGTON, Nov 15: Pakistan has alerted the United States that a military balance between India and Pakistan is imperative for preserving peace in South Asia.

The concern, reiterated on Friday at meetings between Foreign Secretary Riaz H. Khokhar and senior US officials, emanates from latest arms deals by India. “They have taken note of our concern and are conscious of the need for this balance,” Mr Khokhar told journalists.

He said Pakistan’s concern had increased “especially in the light of massive acquisition of sophisticated arms by India, particularly from Israel. The Phalcon (early warning system) and other weapons they are planning to get have a huge multiplier effect.”

Asked if Pakistan was seeking specific weapon systems from the United States to counter the threat, Mr Khokhar said: “We did not discuss specifics.”

“It is imperative that the United States realizes that this delicate balance is very important for the preservation of peace,” said the foreign secretary. “And they are conscious of the need for this balance,” he added.

Mr Khokhar had a 20-minute meeting with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and a 45-minute meeting with Deputy National Security Adviser Steve Hadley on Friday afternoon.

After the meetings, Mr Khokhar and Ambassador Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, who accompanied the secretary at the talks, told reporters that the situation in Afghanistan and South Asia was thoroughly discussed with the US officials.

The two sides also exchanged views on the ongoing military operation against Al Qaeda sympathizers in the tribal areas and the situation in Iraq.

The Americans gave their assessment of the current situation in Iraq “but did not ask Pakistan to send troops,” said Mr Khokhar.

The Americans, said Mr Khokhar, expressed satisfaction that as far as Pakistan’s relations with the United States was concerned, “things are moving in the right direction.”

Referring to the Afghanistan situation, he said, generally the United States and Pakistan agreed with each other, “but tactically, we may have a slightly different approach.”

“We both agreed that President Hamid Karzai is going about the right way, and that his hands need to be strengthened. It is imperative.”

Mr Khokhar said the Americans did not refer to the recent allegations of Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah that the Taliban were regrouping in Pakistan. “But they did refer to some activity in the south and southeast of Afghanistan,” he pointed out.

But when asked if there was a similarity of views between the United States and Pakistan on the Afghan situation, Ambassador Qazi said: “They see it more optimistically and we see it more realistically.” “I endorse this view,” added Mr Khokhar.

The foreign secretary said during the talks he had referred to a recent UN report which warned that if not helped Afghanistan could spin out of control. The report, prepared by a team of Security Council ambassadors who visited Afghanistan earlier this month, concluded that lawlessness and internal differences were the main causes of instability in that country.

“The report gives a very comprehensive and very balanced assessment of the situation,” said Mr Khokhar.

The US side raised the issue of cross-border infiltration in Kashmir and “we told them what we have done so far. And, we think, we have done more than adequately in this area,” said Mr Khokhar.

Pakistan, he said, did not accept the Indian contention that Islamabad was “encouraging, promoting and launching” cross-border attacks. “The important thing is that India has to come to the table,” he said.