India cautious over Pak détente

Himalayan News Service

Washington, June 28:

Defence minister tells US what New Delhi wants.

It cannot be said “for sure” that India’s peace process with Pakistan is firmly in place, Indian Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee has said, while calling for a close strategic partnership with the US. Speaking at two venues here yesterday, Mukherjee outlined New Delhi’s interests

in its neighbourhood and beyond. The minister, on a four-day visit to the US, is preparing the ground for next month’s trip by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Mukherjee did not hide India’s disappointment with Pakistan over its failure to raze the terrorist infrastructure in its territory directed at New Delhi. “The infrastructure for terrorism in Pakistan and Pakistan-controlled territory remains,” he told South Asian experts at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “We do not hear of operations like the ones being conducted by Pakistan in cooperation with the US against the war on terrorism at its (Afghan) frontiers (in) its eastern borders with India. We cannot still say for sure that the (India-Pakistan) peace process is entrenched.”

Mukherjee said the “biggest” challenge to India’s vision “comes of course from our western neighbour”. He said India had a vested interest in making peace with Pakistan and highlighted the positives of the recent past. Mukherjee said only when the two resumed direct bilateral trade and transit links would there be “a vested interest in peace in both countries”. The minister voiced Indian concerns over terrorist activities in South Asia. On the question of access to the US defence industry, Mukherjee said: “Given India’s geo-political environment and its responsible track record, it should justifiably be allowed to access all the technologies and defence equipment it needs.” Mukherjee separately met US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and discussed strategic and bilateral issues. He also met Vice President Dick Cheney.