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India slams Miliband's Kashmir-Mumbai linkage

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband's trip to India, billed as a "solidarity visit" following the Mumbai siege, was dubbed a "disaster".

delhi Updated: Jan 18, 2009 06:37 IST

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband's trip to India, billed as a "solidarity visit" following the Mumbai siege, was dubbed a "disaster" on Saturday.

Miliband raised Indian hackles by linking the unresolved Kashmir dispute to the Mumbai attacks and because of what government sources called his "aggressive style" during his three-day visit which ended on Friday.

"There is no linkage between Kashmir and the terror India has been facing emanating from Pakistan... The bureaucracy in the British foreign office should have educated him a little bit on the facts," ruling Congress party spokesman Manish Tiwari told reporters in New Delhi.

Arun Jaitley, spokesman for the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, described Miliband's visit as a "disaster".

"In recent years, there has been no bigger disaster than the visit of David Miliband. At the end of his visit, we were having nothing but some... pro-Pakistan comments," Jaitley said.

The former British colony has traditionally resisted any kind of outside interference in its dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir, trigger of two of the three wars between the two nuclear-armed rivals.

Miliband's views on Kashmir and the Mumbai attacks were spelt out in a piece that appeared in the London Guardian newspaper on Thursday while he was in India.

"Resolution of the dispute over Kashmir would help deny extremists in the region one of their main calls to arms and allow Pakistani authorities to focus more effectively on tackling the threat on their western borders," he wrote.

Miliband's "aggressive style, the tone and manner in which he conducted himself during talks with the prime minister (Manmohan Singh) and the foreign minister (Pranab Mukherjee) were also upsetting," a government source told AFP on Saturday.

New Delhi has blamed the attacks on the Pakistan-based group Lashkar-e-Taiba, one of the many militant Islamist groups battling New Delhi's rule in the scenic Himalayan region, divided between India and Pakistan but claimed in full by both.

A report in the Hindu newspaper quoted a senior foreign ministry official as dismissing Miliband, who is 43, as "a young man".

"I guess this is the way he thinks diplomacy is conducted," the unidentified official said.

The Hindu quoted another Indian official as saying the two government meetings with Miliband were "pretty awful".

Even when Miliband was in India, the government made its displeasure known.

"We do not need unsolicited advice on internal issues in India like Kashmir," said foreign office spokesman Vishnu Prakash.

Another Indian official called the foreign ministry criticism of Miliband "unprecedented", saying it was the first time New Delhi "had ticked off a government minister from a UN Security Council member country while the visit was ongoing".

Since the Mumbai carnage, India has been seeking to rally the international community to pressure Pakistan to crack down on Islamic groups operating from its territory.