London, Oct. 21: British Prime Minister Tony Blair used a private meeting with his Indian counterpart to promote the sale of British Hawk jets while urging peace with Pakistan.
Blair raised the BAe Systems deal with A.B. Vajpayee on October 12.
(In New Delhi, the external affairs ministry spokesperson said the issue was “only mentioned in passing” by Blair, adds PTI.)
The UK government has been actively pursuing the deal and both the Downing Street and the foreign office stressed the Hawks were training jets.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “We make no apology for supporting a legitimate defence industry.” British officials also stressed that any deal would be subject to the usual “rigorous” controls.
But the jets can easily be converted for combat, as has happened in Indonesia, and Blair’s intervention is likely to revive Labour unease over arms sales.