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Sunday, September 30, 2001

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Govt. criticised for allowing U.S. aircraft landing facility

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, SEPT. 29. The Vajpayee Government's decision to allow the U.S. military aircraft landing facility here led to protests from the Left parties, while the Congress warned the Government against allowing Indian soil to be used by foreign troops to attack a third country.

The Congress did not object to New Delhi providing refuelling facility or the use of airspace to the U.S. military aircraft for fighting international terrorism. India had granted similar permission in the past, an obvious reference to the permission by the then Chandra Shekhar regime during the Gulf war.

The chairman of AICC foreign affairs department, Mr. K. Natwar Singh, said Indian soil should not be allowed to be used by foreign troops to carry out attacks against a third country.

The CPI(M) objected to the move on the ground that it came despite the consensus arrived at the all-party meeting in which the Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, had assured that the Government's involvement in the war against terrorism would not be beyond exchange of information with the U.S.

``Strong doubts have arisen in the minds of the people that such provision of landing facility will gradually involve our country into the intended American war against Afghanistan,'' the CPI(M) politburo said in a statement.

It demanded that the Vajpayee Government ``strictly adhere'' to its assurance given at the all-party meeting as well as the consensus arrived at the meeting.

The CPI echoed similar sentiments and suggested that the Prime Minister should take the people, Parliament and the Opposition into confidence before allowing such facilities to the U.S. military aircraft.

The CPI national secretary, Mr. Atul Kumar Anjan, said Mr. Vajpayee should explain to the nation what transpired between New Delhi and Washington.

Another CPI national secretary, Mr.D.Raja, wondered whether allowing the U.S. military aircraft on Friday was the first step to involve India in the American war.

Two NDA allies, the Janata Dal (United) and the Samata Party, said the permission granted by the Government was not unusual. The spokesmen of both parties reiterated that the NDA had already authorised the Prime Minister and the NDA Government to take necessary steps in the global fight against terrorism.

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