NATIONAL

We have Russia's support: envoy

MOSCOW, DEC. 27. Russia has extended full support to India on the issue of cross-border terrorism and relations with Pakistan, the Indian envoy in Moscow, Mr. K. Raghunath, has said.

Recent political-level contacts showed that Russia ``shares our perception'' of the situation in South Asia. ``Moscow's position on terrorism and Indo-Pak. relations is very close to ours. We have its full support as far as our understanding of the situation and action is concerned,'' the envoy told the Indian correspondents here.

Moscow's position was conveyed to the Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, by the Russian President, Mr. Vladimir Putin, in their telephonic conversation on Monday, which the Indian envoy described as ``very good''. The Russian Foreign Ministry, the same day, expressed ``strong condemnation'' of the December 13 attack on Parliament and stressed the convergence of views on the issue between Moscow and Delhi.

Russia appreciated India's restraint in the wake of the Parliament attack, but there was also ``complete understanding'' between the countries that Pakistan could not be allowed to trade off its assistance to the anti-terrorist coalition in Afghanistan for a licence to engage in cross-border terrorism, Mr. Raghunath said.

In a year-end review of Indo-Russian relations, the Ambassador said the year 2001 had seen the Indo-Russian political and strategic dialogue ``reinforced'' and make ``good progress''. The two countries have engaged in ``very serious, concrete cooperation'' on a wide range of issues, including strategic stability, terrorism, and Afghanistan.

India and Russia share a common approach on Afghanistan and have been closely cooperating in the post-Taliban arrangement in that country, Mr. Raghunath said.

Russia had called for an urgent meeting of the G-8 group to discuss the flare-up of tension between India and Pakistan, a news agency report said.

The Interfax quoted Italian sources in Moscow as saying that Russia had sent its proposals to Italy, current chairman in the Group of Eight, and the other G-8 countries, which include the U.S., Germany, the U.K., France, Canada and Japan.

Russia has urged the G-8 to register its concern over the situation shaping up in South Asia in the wake of the attack on Indian Parliament by Kashmiri separatists based in Pakistan, the Italian sources told Interfax. Moscow also wants the G-8 to call on India and Pakistan to resume political dialogue and joint efforts in combating terrorism, the sources said. However, there was no official confirmation of the report.

Meanwhile, a senior Russian parliamentarian said Moscow had urged Washington to ensure that Pakistan's nuclear arsenal does not fall into the hands of Islamic extremists. ``There is a danger that extremist forces might seize nuclear weapons in Pakistan,'' said Mr. Dmitry Rogozin, head of the Lower House Foreign Affairs Committee. ``We have discussed this problem with the Americans and have strongly impressed upon them that they bear full responsibility for the safety of the Pakistani nuclear arms.''

The Russian MP said the anti-terror operation in Afghanistan ``has spurred the activity of extremist forces in Pakistan.'' Many people in Pakistan were unhappy with Gen. Pervez Musharraf's Government over its cooperation with the U.S. in Afghanistan, Mr. Rogozin said.

``The Pakistani military is trying to let the steam of wrath against Gen. Musharraf and the top brass. The best way to do it is to point a finger at the old-new enemy, India. The build up of tension helps Islamabad set all domestic opposition against India,'' the head of the Russian Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee said.