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Not yet game for Pak guest

New Delhi, Nov. 2: An out-of-the box proposal from army headquarters to invite Pakistan’s military representative in India to witness a war game this month has been nixed by the government.

The ministry of external affairs has advised the defence ministry to freeze the army’s suggestion that the defence attach' in Pakistan’s high commission in New Delhi be invited to witness Exercise Desert Strike.

Neither Pakistan nor India has ever invited each other’s representative to attend their exercises but units of the two armies are currently operating jointly under the United Nations’ flag in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Army headquarters made the proposal to invite Pakistan’s representative through the defence secretary.

If accepted, the invite to the Pakistani representative would easily have ranked among the biggest military confidence building measures in a season that has seen the opening up of the Line of Control in Kashmir after the October 8 earthquake.

But that has been quickly followed by the pre-Diwali blasts in Delhi.

The MEA’s ostensible reason for negating the army’s proposal is that there is no guarantee that Islamabad will reciprocate by sending out a similar invitation to India's military representative for a Pakistan army exercise.

The army had decided to send the invitation beca- use the drill would in any case be witnessed by a number of foreign observers. Information about it would be easily available.

The war game is still a confidence building measure with China’s military observer among 40 defence attaches invited to witness Exercise Desert Strike.

Some 35 of 40 defence attaches in foreign missions in New Delhi have confirmed that they will be available to witness the Indian Army’s fireworks. The defence attaches will be flown to a range in the Rajasthan desert on November 18.

Exercise Desert Strike, billed the largest Indian war game for foreign military observers, will essentially be a “firepower demonstration” to be carried out by one of the strike formations of the army.

It will involve an artillery division with Bofors 155- mm howitzers ' the guns that blasted Pakistan-supp-orted positions in the 1999 Kargil war ' and nearly 100 tanks.

The exercise is planned as an exhibition of the “punch” that the Indian Army possesses ' a show of muscle flexing.

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