June 2002 News

USA offers ground sensors for LoC

12 June 2002
The Tribune

New Delhi: With infiltration from across the border being the only issue on the agenda for discussion between the visiting Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Defence Minister George Fernandes the USA today offered to provide advanced ground sensors to monitor movement from across the Line of Control (LoC) besides also outlining a menu of proposals to further de-escalate the situation on the borders. In a bid to further the process started by US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage on his recent visit, the US Defence Secretary suggested a meeting of surveillance experts from Britain, the USA, India and Pakistan to work out modalities for using such sensors to track cross LoC movements in Kashmir. He rounded off a hectic day-long schedule of talks with top Indian leadership with a meeting with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee after which he left for Islamabad. Earlier in the day he held a 90-minute meeting with George Fernandes, met Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh over lunch and later met Home Minister L.K. Advani for about 30 minutes. He had met National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra before calling on the Defence Minister. Setting up of infiltration monitoring mechanism figured prominently in talks Mr Rumsfeld had with all senior Indian leaders. A US official briefing foreign correspondents here said the sensors would be set on ground rather than air-borne and would be operated by local forces rather than by the USA or other foreign experts. After the meeting with Mr Fernandes, Mr Rumsfeld said: “The President of the USA and Secretary of State Colin Powell are deeply interested in the relationship with this country and are anxious to see the tensions that exist between India and Pakistan improve”. He said: “We feel that there are steps being taken which are constructive. The leadership in India has demonstrated their concern and interest in seeing that things are resolved in an appropriate manner Mr Rumsfeld said in a brief remarks after the meeting with Mr Fernandes. Terming his talks with the Indian leadership as “cordial and constructive”, Mr Rumsfeld said the USA “very much values its relationship with India — politically, economically as well as improving and strengthening military-to-military relations”. At the delegation level talks where some of the pending Indo-US Defence cooperation issues figured, the Indian side besides Mr Fernandes included Defence Secretary Yogendra Narain, Additional Secretary Ajay Prasad, Vice Chief of Army Staff Lieut-Gen. N.C. Vij. The US delegation also included William J Lutti, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Defence, American Ambassador to India Robert Blackwill and Stephen Cambourne, Principal Deputy under secretary for Defence. Emerging after the lengthy meeting with Mr Rumsfeld, Mr Fernandes said “understandings” had been reached with the USA on how to deal with some of the immediate problems facing India. The Minister, however, refused to elaborate saying he did not want to go into “specifics”. Mr Rumsfeld, who held a luncheon meeting with the External Affairs Minister, discussed among other things, diplomatic measures which could help ease the situation. The return of the Indian High Commissioner to Islamabad and restoration of road and air links, snapped in January in the wake of December attack by Pakistani terrorists on Parliament, are among proposals that are being considered provided Pakistan remained firm on its assurance to stop cross-border terrorism. The USA has already agreed to supply India with remote sensors and other advanced equipment like night visions to stop cross-border terrorism. An understanding to this effect was reached recently during the visit to Washington by Defence Secretary Yogendra Narain at the Indo-US Joint Defence Policy Group meeting.


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