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US wants to stay out of India-Pak arguments on Mumbai blasts

By Sridhar Krishnaswami in Washington
October 21, 2006 12:08 IST
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The United States has refused to be publicly drawn into the war of words between India and Pakistan on the 'evidence of involvement' in the Mumbai blasts but said it is in touch with New Delhi over the 'sensitive' issue.

Speaking the challenges of terrorism and the threats faced by the US and its friends, top state department official Nicholas Burns also said that Washington wants to augment counter-terrorism cooperation with New Delhi and has an obligation to help India in preventing terror attacks.

On the Mumbai blasts, Burns, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, told reporters, "I don't think it would be proper for me to share publicly any information coming from us on such a sensitive issue. Secondly, the US has a selfish interest and obligation to help India to prevent terrorist attacks if it can do that, and also to be a partner with India in the fight against terrorism, just as we are a partner with Pakistan in the fight against terrorism."

Burns, who will lead a high-level delegation to India next month, said, "When I go to Delhi, I want to talk to people who are experts on counter-terrorism because we want to upgrade our conversations with the Indian government."

"But in the cases of these new charges going back and forth, I don't think its appropriate for the US to get invoved publicly because we have two friends in the regions, different relationships but two friends, and our counter-terrorism agenda with Pakistan is fundamentally important to us and we appreciate the support President Pervez Musharraf gives us and our new cooperation with India is also fundamentally important," he added.

"So I don't it's right for us to somehow take sides or be involved in a public debate so it's better to work quietly, behind the scenes," Burns said.

Emphasising that the great challenges to the US is the terrorist threat against it and its friends, he said, "The distinguishing feature of this challenge is that it is global in its orirentation and the US understands India has been unfortunately and tragically the victim of a series of terrorist attacks over the past year."

"We have great sympathy for the Indian families who have lost loved ones. All of them are innocent victims of the terrible terrorist onslaught," the top administration official remarked.

On relations with Islamabad, he said Pakistan is a friend of the US, a close partner with the US.

"While we had a major diasgreement over the A Q Khan network, we believe Pakistan is doing everything it can do now to help us stem the proliferation of nuclear materials in the world. I think we should keep the focus on North Korea; that's where it should lie, a week after they have conducted this nuclear test which has shocked countries of the world," the senior official said.

Saying that it is 'not fair' to say that North Korea is going to get away with the nuclear test, Burns maintained that the Security Council Resolution 1718 had come up with the 'toughest sanctions regime yet' and that the international community will raise the cost but Washington is not imposing a quarantine on Pyongyang.

By the same token, Burns argued that the inputs of A Q Khan and his networks are well known and that Washington does not 'walk away' from the fact but argued that currently the spotlight should be on North Korea.

"I think it is very well known in the past when we talked about the A Q Khan network. We don't walk away from that but the fact is that the spotlight this week should be on the government of North Korea," Burns said.

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Sridhar Krishnaswami in Washington
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