The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Delhi moves away from middle path

New Delhi, March 31: India has indirectly said “truth” is not with the Americans in their war on Iraq and raised serious doubts whether the US’ sophisticated weapons are enough to dictate the outcome of the war in Washington’s favour.

Over the past few days, Delhi was showing signs of breaking away from its “middle path” on the US-led military action in Iraq. The country’s harshest criticism yet of the US role came this afternoon from deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani.

“Some countries who have the most sophisticated equipment think they can win a war in one or two weeks, but if truth is not with them, the conflict could be prolonged and one never knows what would be the consequence,” he said.

The reference was oblique as the US was not mentioned. But it was clear which country Advani had in mind.

The shift in Delhi’s position has come about when the Bush administration is showing signs of praising or rewarding Pakistan. It also follows the massacre of 24 Kashmiri Pundits in Nadimarg by Islamabad-backed militants.

At yesterday’s National Democratic Alliance meeting here, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee reportedly said Delhi’s “soft” line on the Iraq war was to ensure Pakistan did not get an edge over it in dealing with the US.

But the Indian leadership has realised over the past few days that the US administration, despite its critical statements about Pakistan for its role in Kashmir, was in no mood to dump Pervez Musharraf, at least not for now.

When the US state department asked the South Asian neighbours to resume their stalled dialogue, India asked Washington why it did not pursue the same policy with Saddam Hussein.

Delhi’s sharp reaction prompted a US statement urging Pakistan to stop infiltration across the Line of Control.

But shortly after Washington asked Islamabad to stop all violence against India and respect the LoC, the US decided to reward the Musharraf regime with a financial aid package of $500 million — which may go up to $1 billion — for its support to Iraq war and the fight against global terrorism.

The proposed aid consti- tutes part of US President George W. Bush’s wartime supplemental request to the Congress for $75 billion to deal with the Iraq situation and continue the fight against global terrorism.

Earlier this month, the Bush administration had decided to lift all remaining US sanctions on Pakistan and indicated an aid package of $250 million. The decision also opened the way for full-scale cooperation in sectors such as military sales and a long-term bilateral strategic alliance.

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