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India Reiterates Support for US led Anti-Terrorism Campaign - 2001-10-17

Indian leaders have reiterated a strong commitment to the American led campaign against terrorism. And, amid concerns over rising tensions in Kashmir, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has reassured India its concerns on terrorism will be addressed.

After meeting the Indian prime minister and foreign minister, Mr. Powell said India and the United States are "natural allies." He says the two nations are working together in advancing the international coalition against terrorism.

He says the United States is determined to end the Al-Qaida terrorist network and its bases in Afghanistan. "Our focus in Afghanistan now is eradicating the Al Qaida network; to end the terrorist use of Afghanistan as a safe haven; to stop the invasion of Afghanistan which has taken place as a result of the presence of Al-Qaida; and we will achieve that goal," he says.

Mr. Powell reassured India U.S. efforts are directed against all terrorism.

"The United States and India are united against all terrorism and that includes the terrorism that has been directed against India, as well," he says.

India has been asking the United States to broaden its campaign to include Kashmiri militant groups, which New Delhi says are supported by Pakistan, a charge Islamabad denies.

Mr. Powell repeated the call made in Islamabad for a dialogue between the two countries to resolve their differences on Kashmir. But both the U.S. secretary and the Indian foreign minister sought to play down comments made earlier, in Islamabad, where he described Kashmir as the central issue between India and Pakistan. The observation had angered New Delhi.

Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh says although India and the United States may may disagree on some issues, this will not affect their relationship. "There is a position United States of America has, and has had," he says. "And as two democracies we could disagree on an event, but we do not need necessarily to be disagreeable about the disagreement."

Mr. Singh also played down concerns about rising tensions in Kashmir and says India is committed to improving ties with rival Pakistan.

Mr. Powell reiterated the United States remains committed to strengthening its relationship with India, a comment aimed at allaying unease in India about the new alliance between Washington and Islamabad.

India and the United States have signed a treaty to fight international crime and terrorism.