Washington, November 20
India warned on Friday that new American arms sales to Pakistan could harm improving New Delhi-Washington ties as well as a promising dialogue between the South Asia's two nuclear rivals.
During talks in Washington, top Bush administration officials raised US concerns about Iran's nuclear activities but Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran said his government was "not really in a position to pass judgment."
Saran met Secretary of State-designate Condoleezza Rice before she went into the hospital for minor surgery and also had meetings with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, among others.
Washington is improving relations with the world's largest democracy, attracted by its booming technology expertise and commercial market, but India's nuclear weapons capability and ties with Iran are a serious concern.
A defense official said last month the administration would consult Congress on Pakistan's nearly 15-year quest for advanced F-16 fighter aircraft. Under US law, Congress must approve such deals.
Pakistan became a vital ally in the war on terrorism after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
Saran said he was told the administration has not decided whether to go forward with the F-16 sale. But he told a news briefing: "When I met the secretary of state-designate, I did raise our strong concerns at reports of impeding arms sales by the United States to Pakistan.
"We pointed out the repercussion that such supplies could have on the ongoing India-Pakistan dialogue which was poised at a rather sensitive juncture."
India has began a cautious peace process with Pakistan and announced the withdrawal of some troops from the disputed region of Kashmir.
IMPACT ON RELATIONS
Saran noted that during President George W. Bush's first term of office US-India relations improved significantly. "So in this context, the supply of sophisticated weaponry to Pakistan will inevitably impact on the positive sentiments and good will that has come to characterize US-India relations," he added.
US officials assured Saran that Bush is committed to advancing relations with India. Washington supports the India-Pakistan dialogue and will continue to press Pakistan to end cross-border attacks, they told him.
The administration has accused Iran of vigorously pursuing a nuclear weapons program and the issue is an urgent challenge facing Bush as he begins a second term. Tehran insists it only wants nuclear technology to generate electricity.
Although Saran said his government has an impeccable record of protecting its nuclear technology, the United States recently imposed sanctions on two Indian scientists for alleged nuclear cooperation with Iran.
After New Delhi protested that the men did no wrong, Washington agreed to "review" the sanctions. Saran said there has been no decision.
He said US officials voiced their concerns about Iran and he reiterated India's view that Iran should adhere to its international commitments.