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Pak fears Sharon's visit to India may destabilise South Asia

The growing Indo-Israeli defence ties may widen the arms gap in S Asia, says Pak foreign ministry.

world Updated: Sep 08, 2003 19:41 IST

Pakistan expressed deep concern on Monday over Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's visit to India that aims to boost defence cooperation.

The four-day trip to New Delhi and Mumbai is the highest-level Israeli visit to India since diplomatic ties were established 11 years ago. Sharon, who is due to arrive in India on Monday evening, will meet Prime Minister ABVajpayee and other top officials.

Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman Masood Khan told a weekly news briefing that Sharon's visit to India could destabilise the region by widening the arms gap.

"If this axis is directed against Muslims all over the world and if this axis is directed against Pakistan and Pakistani Muslims, we would be most concerned as this would be a very negative development," he said.

"The other dimension which we are worried about is the growing Indo-Israeli defence cooperation. This has a destabilising effect on the region and we are deeply concerned about it."

Relations between India and Israel have been underpinned by burgeoning Israeli defence sales. India spends up to $2 billion a year on Israel's ordnance and military technology exports, according to Israeli security sources.

The visit is expected to yield defence deals including the sale of a more than $1 billion Israeli airborne early warning radar system.

The three Phalcon radars India seeks would put large parts of Pakistan under Indian surveillance.

Khan said recent defence purchases by India were targeted specifically against Pakistan.

"We have warned against the dangerous consequences of such a collaboration between India and Israel. I think such a collaboration should be avoided at all costs," he said.

Muslim Pakistan does not recognise Israel, although Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has called for a debate on whether relations should be established with the Jewish state.

First Published: Sep 08, 2003 17:46 IST