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Last Updated: Monday, 20 September, 2004, 16:51 GMT 17:51 UK
UK backs India security seat bid
Manmohan Singh (L) and Tony Blair
India says its grateful for Britain support's on the Security Council issue
British Prime Minister Tony Blair has said he will support India's efforts to become a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

Mr Blair told his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh, after a meeting in London that India's exclusion was not in keeping with modern times.

Britain says it has long argued for reform of the Security Council.

Mr Singh is in London at the start of an eight-day foreign trip, during which he will meet numerous world leaders.

Pakistani opposition

"India is a country of 1.2bn people. For India not to be represented on the Security Council is something which is not in tune with the modern times in which we live," Mr Blair told reporters.

"This is the position we've adopted over a long period of time, and I'm in no doubt that as each year passes the case gets stronger," he said.

Mr Blair said that he hoped to involve both India and China in dialogue of the G-8 group of leading industrial countries next year, when Britain assumes the chairmanship.

Manmohan Singh and Tony Blair
Mr Singh goes from Britain to the US

Correspondents says the difficulties faced by the UN over Iraq has strengthened arguments for reform of the Security Council, and India - along with Brazil, Germany and Japan - is agitating to become a member.

After 45 minutes of talks in London, Mr Singh said that he was grateful for Britain's continued backing in its efforts to gain permanent membership of the Security Council.

The US has yet come out in full support of India's efforts, but Pakistan has spoken actively against it.

Indigenous insurgency

"We believe that permanent seats should not be increased," Pakistan's foreign ministry spokesman Masood Khan told a news conference.

"Our rationale is that there should be no new centres of power and privilege and that we should try to democratise the United Nations and make it more transparent.

"That's why we have always opposed a permanent seat for India," he said.

Mr Singh and President Musharraf of Pakistan are due to meet on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly on 24 September.

"Our eyes are fixed on the next meeting between the two leaders and we hope that they will be able to give a firm direction to their negotiators for further progress," Mr Khan said.

President Pervez Musharraf
President Musharraf is in the US at the same time as Mr Singh

"They have exchanged messages of goodwill, but beyond courtesies they will go into substance."

Mr Singh promised in his talks in London that he would engage constructively with Pakistan over the Kashmir dispute, provided the threat caused by Kashmiri insurgents can be kept under control.

"If terrorism is not under control then it will be very difficult for our government to prepare Indian public opinion to move forward on the road to dialogue," he said.

Indigenous insurgency

The two prime ministers also talked about strengthening economic ties and events in Iraq.

India reiterated its position not to send troops there in the short term, but will tell the Americans that it is willing to help train Iraqi police officers and supply rehabilitation and reconstruction assistance.

Since January, Delhi and Islamabad have been holding peace talks aimed at reducing hostilities.

But despite some improvement in trade and transport ties, the dialogue has done little to ease tensions over Kashmir, the spark for two wars between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

India accuses Pakistan of sponsoring an Islamic uprising in its part of Kashmir. Pakistan says it only lends diplomatic backing to an indigenous insurgency against Indian rule.

President Musharraf is expected to brief President Bush on his army's efforts to root out militants holed up along the rugged western border with Afghanistan.

The forthcoming presidential election in Afghanistan is also likely to feature in the talks, with President Musharraf reportedly planning a meeting with the Afghan leader, Hamid Karzai, while in the US.

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