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Saudi can be interlocutor, not mediator: Tharoor

world Updated: Feb 28, 2010 18:58 IST

India regards Saudi Arabia, with its close ties to Islamabad, as a "valuable interlocutor" in improving ties with Pakistan, Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor Sunday said, but clarified that it did not mean any mediation by Riyadh on bilateral issues.

"We feel Saudi Arabia has a long and close relationship with Pakistan and that makes Saudi Arabia even a more valuable interlocutor for us," Tharoor, who is accompanying Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on a three-day visit to Riyadh, told Indian journalists here.

Tharoor, however, clarified that New Delhi's desire to seek the support from Riyadh on terror-related issues with Islamabad did not mean giving it the role of mediator in bilateral disputes between the two neighbours.

He was responding to a question on whether India will seek Saudi Arabia's support to influence Pakistan to address India's concerns over terrorism emanating from Pakistani territory.

Tharoor added that Saudi Arabia has its own issues with Al Qaeda.

"We expect to have a constructive conversation on the issue. The tentacles of terror have already spread from Afghanistan to Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine, and latest is Yemen," he added.

"When we tell them about our experience, Saudi Arabia listens as somebody who is not in anyway an enemy of Pakistan but rather is a friend of Pakistan..." he replied when asked what kind of cooperation did New Delhi expect from Riyadh considering its close relations with Islamabad.

"...and therefore, I am sure will listen with sympathy and concern to a matter of this nature," he said.

He rejected some media reports that said he had used the word 'mediation' or 'mediator'.

"No chance of my saying Saudi Arabia should be a mediator... Never said that or anything like it," Tharoor said a couple of hours after the media publicised his remarks widely.

India has rejected any role to a third party in the resolution of bilateral issues with Pakistan.

Recently, Defence Minister AK Antony rejected Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi's remarks about giving a blank cheque to Beijing in India-Pakistan affairs.

Manmohan Singh is currently on a three-day trip to Riyadh, a path-breaking visit that is likely to see the signing of an extradition treaty paving the way for greater counter-terror cooperation between the two countries.

Issues relating to Afghanistan and Pakistan will figure prominently in discussions between the two sides.

Saudi Arabia, the Gulf's most influential country, was the first to recognise the then Taliban regime in Kabul in the mid-nineties and enjoys enormous leverage with Pakistan.

Saudi Arabia has taken the lead in supporting the plan for reintegration of the Taliban in Afghanistan that was endorsed by nearly 70 countries at the London conference last month and is seen as an important player in stabilisation of the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.

"Saudi Arabia is very concerned about the inability of Pakistani leadership to control extremist elements within their country. Saudi is also concerned about what is happening in Afghanistan," said India's ambassador to Saudi Arabia Talmiz Ahmad.

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