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Arms sales not to add to tension: Straw

July 21, 2002

ISLAMABAD, July 20: British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said on Saturday the sale of arms to India by Britain would make no difference to the level of tension between Pakistan and India.

“I am clear that licensing of this arms supply (will) make no difference whatsoever on the level of tensions across the Line of Control,” he told reporters called to Chaklala Airbase by British High Commission before his departure from Pakistan.

The British foreign secretary, who came under criticism by his country’s lawmakers for not strictly adhering to the criteria of arms sales, including fighter planes capable of carrying nuclear weapons, said there was no linkage between the resolution of Kashmir issue and arms sales to India or Pakistan.

“The key to resolving the problems across the LoC and the problem of Kashmir does not lie in decisions, which are inconsistent or consistent to arms control criteria,” he said.

Britain, he claimed, had toughest and most transparent process of arms sales to any Third World country.

In a report published recently, the British parliamentarians observed that Straw did not personally examine export licence applications to the region during the period of heightened tension in May and June.

The British secretary said the level of tensions across the LoC had come down and “infiltration” had also been reduced.

After having held a three-hour long discussion with Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Inamul Haq, he, however, called for what he said a “permanent end” to “infiltration” across the Line of Control.

On his talks with Inamul Haq, he said a wide-range of issues, including bilateral agenda, came under discussion.

When asked to comment on a report that President Gen Pervez Musharraf had refused to see him, he said he had come to India and Pakistan to see the new foreign ministers.

Regarding the human rights violation in Kashmir, he said the UK looked towards the government of India to deal with human rights abuses in Jammu and Kashmir.

FO PRESS RELEASE: Later, a press release issued by the foreign office said Straw, accompanied by Rosalind Marsden, John Williams and Simon MacDonald, met Inamul Haq on Saturday.

The discussions focused on the Pakistan-India situation, in particular the efforts for de-escalation and the resumption of dialogue.

DIPLOMATIC EFFORTS: Straw underlined the need for finding a diplomatic solution to the Kashmir problem — a core issue between Pakistan and India since their independence in 1947, adds APP.

The key to resolving the issue lay in the good diplomatic efforts, he said after the conclusion of his day-long visit to Islamabad.

“It is in the interest of both countries ... to find a diplomatic solution to the problem which has sadly continued since independence in 1947,” he said.

Straw arrived here from New Delhi where he held talks with new Indian Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinnha as part of his peace mission to reduce tension between the two nuclear rivals.