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Friday, September 17, 1999 Published at 17:38 GMT 18:38 UK

World: South Asia

India and US hold terrorism talks

Foreign Minister Singh: Trying to forge a diplomatic offensive against terrorism

The US co-ordinator for counter terrorism, Michael Sheehan, has held talks in Delhi with Indian government officials on countering threats from militant groups in the region.

Observers say the visit indicates a growing closeness between the two countries at a time when Indo-US ties are said to have improved considerably.

Mr Sheehan met Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's principal secretary Brajesh Mishra as well as foreign Ssecretary K Raghunath, according to officials.

Mr Sheehan's visit follows talks in Washington earlier this month between senior Indian foreign ministry officials and the US State Department.

Main thrust

CK Arora, UNI Washington correspondent: India and US have common interests
India's Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh is expected to make terrorism the main thrust of his address at next week's UN General Assembly session in New York, during which he will meet US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

According to press reports in Delhi, India is expected to ratify a range of conventions and protocols relating to various acts of terrorism.

The move should pave the way for the General Assembly's legal committee to get to work on a comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism tabled by India.

Diplomatic offensive

The talks on Friday and Saturday, and Mr Singh's visit to the UN are seen as part of India's intensifying efforts to forge a regional diplomatic offensive against international terrorism.

Mr Singh issued a call for support earlier this week in an address to the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia, held in the Kazakh capital, Almaty.

He said the region was home to many terrorist groups and movements who recognise no frontiers, and asked whether countries could not "work collectively to counter the growing threat of cross-border terrorism".

India's prime concern is the spread of Islamic militancy from neighbouring Pakistan and from Afghanistan.

India claims that Pakistan and Afghan mercenaries are fighting alongside Muslim separatists in Kashmir, and also accuses Islamabad of sponsoring the decade-old insurgency in the Himalayan state.

Pakistan denies the charges.

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