The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Punch to US, airspace push to Pakistan

New Delhi, Oct. 20: India has said the US is not doing it a favour by asking Pakistan to stop cross-border terrorism.

Foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal has made the remarks in an interview to be telecast tomorrow.

Sibal said India is willing to have a second round of talks with Pakistan for restoring civil aviation links, but has not confirmed participation in January’s Saarc summit. Delhi has said leaders of the two countries should have a substantive economic agenda to discuss when they meet next.

“International terrorism is a global phenomenon and it is the common concern of the international community. If the US tells Pakistan to stop terrorism, they are not doing a favour to us. It is an integral part of the international combat against global terrorism,” Sibal said in the interview.

Referring to the aviation talks that broke down after Islamabad demanded a guarantee that Delhi would not snap air links like it did in 1971 and after the December 2001 attack on Parliament, the foreign secretary said: “We were ready to have civil aviation links but Pakistan put a spoke. We are willing to have the second round provided they come with an open mind.”

The talks, held in August, broke down when the Indian team objected to Pakistan’s demand for a mechanism preventing unilateral suspension of overflights. Faced with Islamabad’s demand for a categorical assurance, Delhi said Pakistan would in turn have to assure that it would not promote terrorism against India, or try to unilaterally alter the Line of Control or do anything that violates the Shimla Agreement.

Delhi, which has been affected more than Islamabad by the ban on overflights, is keen to use Pakistani airspace to avoid detours. But Pakistan has demanded that the Samjhauta Express — the only rail link between the two countries — be revived in return.

Sibal said people-to-people contacts between the two countries as well as the exchange of business delegations had helped somewhat. “We can later look at other steps,” he said.

The foreign secretary said Delhi had cleared a Confederation of Indian Industry proposal to have a Pakistani exhibition here.

Sibal’s comments come at a time when an Indus River Commission team from Pakistan has come here to inspect the Baglihar project in Jammu and Kashmir and assess if it violates the agreement between the two sides. South Block officials said a special survey is permissible under the framework of the Indus Water Treaty between the neighbours.

“Our decision to invite the team from Islamabad to come for an inspection flows from the Prime Minister’s peace initiative and stress on strengthening people-to-people contact…” an official said.

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