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'A terrorist isn't a freedom fighter'

'A terrorist isn't a freedom fighter'

Author: Agencies
Publication: The Economic Times
Date: November 22, 2001

Introduction: Ambassador Blackwill assures India of US support in fighting terrorism

The US ambassador to India said on Wednesday Washington and New Delhi were on the brink of a major relationship, and pledged the war against terrorism would not be over until terrorism ended against both countries.

"A terrorist is a terrorist," ambassador Robert Blackwill said in reply to d question about Pakistan's support to terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir. 'They are not freedom fighters. No country will be permitted to provide sanctuaries to terrorists, - Mr Blackwill said.

New Delhi has always brought to the attention of the world Islamabad's promotion of 'cross-border terrorism' via funding, arming and training of foreign terrorists. Pakistan, on its part, has brazenly admitted that it lends moral support to the terrorist acts which it calls 'freedom struggle'.

India, one of the first to line up behind the US in its efforts to fight terrorism after the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, was dismayed by the US choice of Pakistan as a key ally in the military campaign in Afghanistan. Mr Blackwill said Islamabad was a valuable member of the international coalition against terrorism, but terrorism would not be tolerated anywhere. "The fight against terrorism will not end until terrorism against the US as well as India has ended. We are in this together," he told a news conference for foreign journalists.

Indian leaders have refused to resume peace talks with Pakistan as it continues to help terrorists in Kashmir despite the global campaign against terrorism.

However, home minister L K Advani said the government was willing to negotiate with Kashmiri groups including terrorist organisations to end the bloodshed in the Himalayan region.

"We would discuss and negotiate issues with any organisation which is prepared to lay down arms or come to the negotiating table," he told the upper house of parliament.

Mr Blackwill said US and India were on the cusp of a "major relationship" after President Bush met Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on November 9 in what he called the most substantive summit between the two countries in the past 50 years, observing that indo-US relations were built on common democratic values and increasingly overlapping national interests, the American envoy said he anticipated defence cooperation of "a kind that is unprecedented".

Mr Blackwill, just back from the US summit meeting between President Bush and Prime Minister Vajpayee, said Washington saw a "robust" defence cooperation and "conclusive acceleration" in it in the coming year. Military tics between the two countries were suspended in 1998 in the wake of the Pokhran nuclear tests. Military ties would now be taken forward in terms of arms sales, joint exercises, military education, he said.

Mr Blackwill said the Vajpayee-Bush summit was "most substantive" and "consequential in the history of Indo-US relations".

The two nations would resume defence cooperation - disrupted by Indian nuclear tests in 1998 including arms sales, he said. They would also work on counter-terrorism measures including against cyber-terrorism and share intelligence. "The relationship is based on a solid foundation of shared democratic values and overlapping national interests," he said. Mr Blackwill said Mr Advani has been invited to the US for discussions on intensifying cooperation on counter-terrorism. On the campaign against terrorism, Mr Blackwill reiterated, "Mr Bush has stated categorically that the war included terrorism in India. - Agencies

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