India Reaffirms it Will Help US Military if Asked
A senior Indian minister said Saturday New Delhi would consider granting the United States refueling and logistical help if requested in the event of strikes against terrorist bases in Afghanistan.
Home Minister L.K. Advani told the Indian satellite television channel Aaj Tak that New Delhi had already agreed to give intelligence inputs on terrorist bases in Afghanistan and Pakistan to the United States.
Asked whether India would agree to grant Washington use of its military air bases and refueling facilities, the minister said the United States had not made any such demand so far.
"We will consider the request for refueling and other facilities while keeping in mind India's sovereignty," he said, adding India was backing Washington as it too was "directly affected by terrorism".
Last week, Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee told US President George W. Bush by telephone that New Delhi would offer its "fullest cooperation" in the war on terrorism.
But Indian officials have since been careful in their language and Vajpayee on Friday angrily accused Washington of ignoring Indian concerns on terrorism.
India has already reportedly handed the United States some video footage and intelligence inputs on terrorist training camps suspected to be run by Saudi dissident billionaire Osama bin Laden.
Bin Laden is suspected to have masterminded the terror strikes on New York and Washington on September 11, in which more than 6,300 people are estimated to have died.
Advani said before the attacks Washington paid little attention to terrorism.
"But September 11 could become a turning a point .... and I feel the US attitude will change.
"US envoy in India Robert Blackwill has assured me that while at present the US was targeting Osama bin Laden and [Afghanistan's ruling] Taliban, it would in due course also focus its attention on international terrorism and its networking," he said.
When asked if India would take a cue from US resolve to fight terrorism and destroy terrorist training camps in its neighborhood, Advani said: "In the coming weeks and months, a lot could happen in this direction with the US declaring that it would combat international terrorism and its networking."
India accuses Pakistan of training, arming and funding Islamic militant groups operating in Kashmir. Islamabad refutes the charge, saying it offers only moral and diplomatic support to the rebels.
An armed Muslim insurgency in Indian-administered Kashmir has claimed more than 35,000 lives since 1989 -- NEW DELHI (AFP)
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