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Indian FM Visits West to Reaffirm Support for Anti-Terrorism Battle - 2001-09-27

India's foreign minister is visiting France, Germany and the United States to reaffirm the country's support in the international battle against terrorism. India is also seeking reassurance that its concerns regarding terrorism will not be ignored.

Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh will meet senior officials in Paris, Berlin and Washington to offer India's help in rooting out international terrorist networks.

Mr. Singh is also expected to underline New Delhi's concerns that the global battle against terrorism must also focus on Islamic guerrilla groups fighting Indian rule in Kashmir.

India accuses Pakistan of funding and training these militant groups and says most of the Islamic fighters in Kashmir are of foreign origin. Pakistan denies the charge, and calls the Kashmiri insurgency an indigenous freedom struggle.

Indian officials say prominent militant groups operating in Kashmir, such as the Pakistan-based Lakshar-e-Taiba, should have been included on the list of groups and individuals whose financial assets were frozen Monday by the United States for terrorist links.

But New Delhi fears the United States may ignore such concerns as it seeks Pakistan's assistance to trace Osama bin Laden, Washington's prime suspect in the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

Amitabh Mattoo, a strategic affairs expert at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, explains India's position. "India wants to make the United States and other members of the international community sensitive to the fact that you can't draw a distinction between various terrorist groups," he says. "They are inextricably linked. Many of the terrorist groups that are operating in Afghanistan have links in Kashmir. Many of the groups that have been active in Kashmir in the recent past are directly linked to Osama bin Laden and the Taleban. In other words if the American intention is as has been indicated to drain the swamp and not just deal with the symptoms, its critical that the fight against terrorism includes those operating in Kashmir."

American officials are allaying fears that the war against terrorism will be a narrow one. The American ambassador in New Delhi, Robert Blackwill, told reporters the United States is concentrating on those responsible for the September 11 attacks, but that there will be broader objectives down the road.

Indian National Security Advisor Brajesh Mishra received similar assurances when he visited Washington, earlier this week.