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Delhi bristles at -parallel

New Delhi, Oct. 15: India has taken strong exception to the US’ attempts at clubbing it with Pakistan while criticising recent missile tests and asking the two sides to begin dialogue to avert a nuclear war.

This is the closest the Bush administration has come to saying that South Asia has become a nuclear flashpoint because of hostile relations between the neighbours.

The US state department advised Pakistan to show restraint after Islamabad tested its third nuclear-capable missile in two weeks. But it also made an oblique reference to India and said the countries should start taking confidence-building measures.

“We urge Pakistan and other countries in the region to take steps to restrain their nuclear weapon and missile programmes, including no operational deployment of nuclear armed ballistic missiles,” Richard Boucher, the US state department spokesman in Washington, said yesterday.

Pointing out that both India and Pakistan had test launched missiles earlier, he said Washington had been asking the two sides to begin a dialogue on confidence-building measures to reduce the likelihood of nuclear weapons ever being used. “Both sides have tested missiles. Each side has the same obligations,” he said.

But South Block has made it clear that it is not amused at Washington’s attempt. “We are surprised at the manner in which the US state department spokesman has chosen to respond to a question on the Pakistani missile test,” foreign ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna said.

“Boucher ought to have confined himself to reacting to the Pakistani missile test rather than clutter up what he had to say by thinly disguising unwarranted references to India,” he added.

The Musharraf regime, which has been keen on resuming talks with India, has more often than not used a similar logic — it would help avoid yet another armed conflict in South Asia — to get the outside world to pressure Delhi to return to the talks table.

Delhi is determined in its stand on not resuming dialogue till Pakistan dismantles its terror apparatus. But Boucher’s remarks indicate that the US department has started believing in part of the Pakistani campaign.

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