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Chronology of Major Events 2004

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Chronology of Major Events 2004
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Chronology of Major Events 2004

United States

Strategic Profile

4 January:The NASA rover ‘Spirit’ landed on Mars on a mission to roam the Red planet in search of evidence that it was once suitable for life. The ‘Spirit’ was part of a $820 million NASA project that also included a twin rover, ‘Opportunity’.

5 January:A new security system, labelled US VISIT—United States Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology—designed to check the inkless fingerprints and photographs of foreigners coming to the country against a national digital database for criminal and terrorist records, came into force at 115 airports and 14 major seaports across the country.

6 January:President George W. Bush in a letter to Congress stated that the sanctions against Libya would remain but promised to take “tangible steps” if Tripoli addressed US concerns on weapons of mass destruction.

21 January:President Bush, delivering his State of the Union address, defended his administration’s foreign and domestic policies and said that the US would “never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our people”.

23 January:The US and Saudi Arabia froze the accounts of one of Saudi Arabia’s largest Islamic charitable organizations, the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, accusing the organization’s branches in Kenya, Tanzania, Pakistan, and Indonesia of providing funds to terrorist groups.

25 January:One day after the top CIA weapons hunter in Iraq, David Kay, stepped down asserting that he did not think that any stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction existed there, the Secretary of State, Colin Powell, reportedly said that it is an “open question” if such weapon stockpiles could be found in Iraq.

25 January:The first plane flying an American flag flew into Tripoli since Muammar Qadhafi took over power in 1969, carrying a US Congressional delegation, led by Republican Curt Weldon. Weldon told reporters that he was in Tripoli to reinforce the “positive steps that have been taken by the leader of Libya”.

27 January:The US and Russia, after extensive talks in Moscow between Secretary of State Colin Powell and President Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minster Igor Ivanov, and Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov, pledged to work together to avert conflict in South Asia and to combat terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

7 February:President George Bush set up a bipartisan commission, to be headed by former Democrat senator Charles Robb and the retired Federal Appeals Court judge Laurence Silberman, to enquire into the pre-war assessment of intelligence agencies on Iraq’s WMD, and on matters such as terrorism and proliferation.

12 February:Secretary of State Colin Powell told the International Relations Committee of the House of Representatives that winning the war against terrorism was the top priority foreign policy goal of the Bush administration. He was outlining the President’s International Affairs Budget for Fiscal Year 2005, worth about $31.5 billion, with almost half of it going to counter-terrorism efforts.

15 February:The Washington Postreported that the designs of nuclear weapons that Libya obtained from the Pakistan network originated in China. The designs were described as being “very, very old but very well engineered”.

13 March:The Pentagon reported that the US military had launched “Operation Storm” from 7 March to capture top al‑Qaeda and Taliban militants and for “rebuilding and restructuring and providing enduring security in Afghanistan”.

16 March:The Energy Secretary, Spencer Abraham, told reporters at a press briefing showcasing Libyan nuclear equipment at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory that the “Khan network” had made $100 million from the technology it had sold to Libya.

19 March:In a speech marking the first anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, President Bush stressed that there was no neutral ground in the fight between civilization and terror. Calling the war on terror the “inescapable calling of our generation”, he affirmed that any retreat would invite more violence for all nations.

25 March:The Chairman of the Bipartisan National Commission looking into the 11 September 2001 terror strikes, Republican Thomas Kean, in a press briefing charged the Bush and Clinton administrations with not following a “systematic approach” to dealing with terrorist threats.

30 March: In a ceremony at the White House President George Bush formally welcomed the seven new members of NATO—Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia.

3 April:The Secretary of State Colin Powell, briefing the media on his way back from Brussels, admitted that the evidence he presented to the UN Security Council in February 2003 on Iraqi WMD, specifically on two trailers being used to make biological weapons, might be wrong.

6 April:President George Bush, reacting to a statement by the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Richard Lugar, who called for a debate on the 30 June deadline in the wake of unabated violence in Iraq, stated that there were no plans to move back the deadline for the transfer of sovereignty to Iraq.

8 April:The National Security Advisor, Condoleezza Rice, appearing before the Bipartisan National Commission looking into the 11 September 2001 attacks, argued that America’s response to terrorism spanned several administrations. She pointed out that the Bush administration was in office for only 233 days prior to the September attacks.

16 April:Addressing a joint press conference in Washington, President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair vowed to stick with the 30 June deadline for handing over sovereignty to the Iraqis.

24 April:The US lifted most of the sanctions against Libya pertaining to investments and commercial activities but still did not allow for direct air travel between the two countries.

29 April:President George Bush and Vice-President Dick Cheney appeared before the Bipartisan National Commission looking into the 11 September 2001 terror strikes.

07 May:Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that he accepted full responsibility for the gross abuse of Iraqi prisoners.

12 May:The Bush Administration slapped sanctions against Syria for supporting terrorism, standing in the way of the stabilization of Iraq, and pursuing with its programme of weapons of mass destruction.

16 May:Author Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker magazine revealed that Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the Under Secretary of Defence for Intelligence, Stephen Cambone, approved tougher interrogation techniques in Iraq to get better information from prisoners in the face of a growing insurgency threat. The Pentagon’s Chief spokesman Lawrence di Rita refuted the claim.

25 May:President George Bush, in a speech at the Army War College, outlined five steps that would help Iraq achieve democracy and freedom. They were: transferring authority to a new Iraqi government by 30 June; helping to establish security in areas still facing chaos; urging broader international support; reconstruction; and national elections. He, however, stated that the troop level of 138,000 would be maintained.

03 June:The CIA Chief, George Tenet, resigned his post citing “personal reasons”. Tenet’s resignation came at a time when the agency was under severe criticism for several intelligence failures, including the 11 September 2001 terror attacks, and the recent leak of classified intelligence material to the Iraqi politician Ahmed Chalabi.

09 June:The UN Security Council, by a unanimous 15–0 decision, approved a draft US resolution on Iraq endorsing a new sovereign government that would take office at the end of the month. The resolution authorized the US-led multinational force to stay in Iraq to maintain security, though adding that the new Iraqi government could ask the force to leave.

16 June:The bipartisan National Commission looking into the 11 September 2001 terror strikes stated that there was no “credible evidence” of a link between Iraq and al‑Qaeda in the attacks against the United States.

25 June:The Senate unanimously (97–0) passed a $450 billion defence-spending bill that included $25 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Reports indicated that the Bush administration would go back to the Senate for an additional $25 billion after the November elections.

28 June:The US Administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, handed over political authority to an interim Iraqi administration headed by the Prime Minister Iyad Allawi in Baghdad. The transfer of authority was advanced in order to thwart plans of Iraqi resistance forces to launch attacks on 30 June, the original date for the handover.

04 July:Talks between US Secretary of State Colin Powell and his North Korean counterpart Paek Nam-Sun in Jakarta ended with both showing distrust for the other. Paek was quoted as saying that if the US wanted to improve relations, the “DPRK will not regard the US as a permanent enemy”. The US said that it would grant aid and security guarantees only if DPRK dismantled its nuclear weapon programme in a verifiable manner.

09 July:The Senate Intelligence Committee criticized the country’s intelligence agencies for being careless about assessing the threat levels of Iraq prior to the war, for overstating the threat from Iraq’s WMD, for relying on dubious sources, and ignoring evidence.

13 July:The Guardianreported that the Bush administration was in talks with the Polish government and the Czech Republic with a view to positioning the biggest missile defence site outside the US in central Europe.

02 August:President George Bush asked Congress to create the position of the National Intelligence Director to serve as the President’s “Principal Intelligence Advisor” and to “oversee and coordinate the foreign and domestic activities of the intelligence community”.

10 August:President George Bush named the retiring Republican Congressman from Florida and the Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Porter Goss, as the next CIA Director.

19 August:The former weapons inspector David Kay told the Senate Intelligence Committee that the National Security Council led by the National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice had failed to protect President George Bush from faulty pre-war intelligence.

25 August:Former Defence Secretary and the Chairman of the panel investigating the Abu Ghraib prison abuses, James Schlesinger, stated that there was an “institutional and personal responsibility right up the chain of command” that resulted in the abuses.

06 September: According to the Washington Post the number of US soldiers killed in Iraq till August had reached 1100.

08 September:The Pentagon reported that the US military deaths in Iraq stood at 1003. Most of the deaths had occurred after 1 May 2003, when President Bush declared “major combat operations” over.

13 September:The Guardianreported that Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld knew of the prisoner abuse and possible war crimes at Guantanamo Bay but chose to ignore it.

16 September: Differences cropped up at the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) board meeting in Vienna between the US and European countries over the Iranian nuclear programme. The US accused the Europeans of being too accommodative towards the Islamic Republic and stressed that it was “essential and urgent that Iran remedy all failures identified by the agency ... no later than October 31”.

23 September:The US government imposed sanctions on a major state-owned conglomerate, Xinshidai, or China New Era Group, on charges of proliferating missile technology.

23 September: The Republican-led Senate voted 77–17 to approve Porter Goss as the new head of the CIA. President Bush described Goss as a “leader with strong experience in intelligence” and the “right man” for the job.

05 October:Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters that there was no “strong, hard evidence” linking former Iraq President Saddam Hussein with al‑Qaeda.

07 October:The Chief UN weapons inspector, Charles Duelfer, of the Iraq Survey Group, in a 1000-page report submitted to Congress, stated that former Iraq President Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction and lacked the means to build them when the US invaded Iraq.

30 October:With just four days left for the US Presidential elections, Osama bin Laden in a videotaped message threatened more attacks against targets in the US.

03 November:The incumbent President George Bush won the Presidential elections, winning 51 per cent of the popular vote to the 48 per cent won by his Democratic challenger John Kerry. Bush also secured 274 electoral votes, four more than the 270 required. Kerry won 252 electoral votes.

04 November:Addressing the Republican Party members at the Reagan Centre in Washington, President Bush pledged to heal the wounds of a bitterly divided nation. He outlined goals for the next four years to include the war on terror, Iraq, pursuing stable democracies in Afghanistan and Iraq, social security and the simplification of the tax code.

12 November:President George Bush, while condoling the death of the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, hoped that the way would be cleared for successful negotiations with the new emerging leadership.

15 November:Secretary of State Colin Powell submitted his resignation to President George Bush. President Bush earlier told reporters that General Powell had “done a heck of a job”.

16 November:President George Bush formally nominated Condoleezza Rice as the new Secretary of State. Making the announcement at the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Bush stated that in Dr. Rice, “the world will see the strength, grace, and decency of our country”.

30 November:The International Committee of the Red Cross charged that the US military had used psychological and sometimes physical coercion “tantamount to torture” on detenus at the Guantanamo Bay facility.

2 December:The Pentagon said it would increase the troop strength in Iraq by about 12,000, bringing the figure to 150,000—the highest since the occupation began some 19 months earlier. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld reportedly signed the orders to extend the tour of duty of 10,400 combat personnel and to send 1500 more soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division.

4 December:Unnamed officials reportedly said that Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, in spite of a tenure marked by the increasing mess in Iraq and sharp criticism of the treatment the US was meting out to prisoners and detenus at its facilities in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, was expected to stay on for the second Bush administration.

8 December:The House of Representatives passed the Intelligence Reform Bill with an overwhelming vote, 336–75, despite disapproval by some of the conservative Republicans. The Bill that had been supported by many families of the 11 September 2001 tragedy included some key recommendations of a National Commission like the creation of a Director of National Intelligence, which would oversee some of the fifteen spy agencies.

11 December:The American military said in Kabul that US troops had begun a new offensive code-named Operation Lightning Freedom to hunt Taliban and al‑Qaeda militants through the harsh Afghan winter, aiming to sap their strength ahead of the planned spring elections.

12 December:In what was seen as an indication of desperation with the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Bush administration was reportedly examining dozens of transcripts of Mohammad el‑Baradei’s telephone talks with Iranian officials in a bid to ease him out.

13 December:In an open letter to the US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, Human Rights Watch said that new cases of prisoner deaths had emerged from American detention facilities in Afghanistan. It said they highlighted the Government’s “continuing failure” to establish accountability.

21 December:The Washington Post reported that extremely aggressive interrogation techniques “beyond the bounds of standard FBI practice” were widespread in Guantanamo Bay, where the US had imprisoned a large number of suspected terrorists after the 11 September 2001 attacks. The report was on the basis of documents obtained through courts by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Relations with India

12 January:Secretary of State Colin Powell told the US News and World Reportthat the work done by the US with India and Pakistan “produced a breakthrough” in the past several days and acknowledged that more work had to be done.

13 January:President Bush in a statement issued from Monterrey, Mexico, on the “Next Steps in Strategic Partnership with India” announced measures to step up cooperation in the realm of non-nuclear activities, civilian space programmes, trade in high technology and an expanded dialogue on missile defence.

13 January:Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee stated in Ahmedabad that the decision of President Bush to cooperate with India in the fields of civilian nuclear energy, civilian space and high technology was yet another manifestation of the international community’s trust in India as a responsible nuclear power.

29 January:The Commander of the US Pacific Fleet, Walter F. Doran, inspected the facilities at the Kochi shipyard to examine their use as a possible facility for repairing American warships.

5 February:Members of the International Relations Committee of the House of Representatives called for drastic changes in the law on L-visas, citing “outrageous and fraudulent abuse” by corporations using a “loophole in the law to get around quotas that limit the number of high-tech workers who can be brought into the United States”. Indian IT companies Wipro, TCS, and Infosys Technologies were accused of misusing the provisions of the programme.

11 February:The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (US-CIRF) recommended to the Secretary of State that India, along with eleven other countries, be designated as “Countries of Particular Concern” (CPC) on account of the “systematic violations of religious freedom”. The other countries mentioned included Myanmar, Pakistan, North Korea, Eritrea, Iran, China, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam.

13 February:The US Assistant Secretary of State, Christina Rocca, met senior officials of India’s Ministry of External Affairs as part of the India–US “Regional Dialogue”.The two sides issued a joint statement, which stated that the dialogue was one of the “elements of the institutionalized political and strategic dialogue … to harmonize approaches on issues of mutual concern in India’s extended neighbourhood”. Both sides agreed to speed up the progress on the Next Steps on Strategic Partnership announced by Prime Minister Vajpayee and President Bush on 12–13 January 2004.

18 February:India cautiously welcomed the seven-point nuclear agenda put forward by President George W. Bush, and agreed to discuss the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) with the US. It further expressed the need for clarity in procedures adopted in the coalition to be clear-cut.

25 February:The US State Department, in its Annual Human Rights Report for the year 2003, listed “numerous serious problems” in India, including extra-judicial killings, faked encounters, custodial deaths, and torture and rape by the police and other government agencies, restrictions on the freedom of the press, harassment and arrest of human rights monitors, extensive societal violence against women, discrimination and violence against indigenous people and Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

3 March:The Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, Christina Rocca, at a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, justified the huge disparity in aid to India ($85 million) and Pakistan ($700 million) in the context of the war on terrorism.

16 March:Addressing a joint press conference with the External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha, the visiting US Secretary of State Colin Powell noted that the activity across the Line of Control had reduced significantly and hoped that it would stay that way. He stated that no decision had been taken with regard to the sale of F‑16 fighter planes to Pakistan.

31 March:Senior Democrat and founder of Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans, Frank Pallone, in a speech in the House of Representatives criticized the Bush administration for granting the status of a “major non-NATO ally” (MNNA) to Pakistan. The reasons for his reservations were: Pakistan was not a democratic nation; was supporting terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir; was a country whose scientists were helping covert nuclear programmes in rogue states; and had a record of abusing military and nuclear equipment.

31 March: Republican Senator John Cronyn from Texas announced the setting up of the “Friends of India” group, comprising both Democrats and Republicans, in the Senate. The group was to be co-chaired by Senator Hillary Clinton.

7 April:India and the US began a joint exercise at the Indian Army’s Counter-Insurgency and Jungle Warfare (CIJW) School at Varangte, Mizoram.

29 April:In its report “Patterns of Global Terrorism for 2003”, the State Department stated that India was an “important partner” in the global war on terror, while noting that the country continued to be the target of attacks by “foreign-based” and Kashmiri groups operating in Jammu and Kashmir.

01 May:The State Department included the CPI (ML) People’s War (PW) and the Maoist Communist Centre (MCC) in its list of terrorist organizations.

09 May:The Assistant Secretary of State for Non-Proliferation, John Wolf, told press persons in New York that the US would not accept India and Pakistan as nuclear weapon states under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

20 May:Secretary of State Colin Powell told press persons that the US was willing to work with the new government in New Delhi to carry forward the “solid agenda” covering all aspects of the bilateral relationship.

26 May:President George Bush telephoned Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and congratulated him on the Congress party’s victory in the elections. Bush underlined the importance his administration attached to strengthening relations with India as a strategic objective.

01 June:At the sixth meeting of the Indo–US Defence Policy Group (DPG) in New Delhi, the US expressed its desire to strengthen cooperation in missile defence, defence-related technology, and combined military exercises.

05 June:Speaking at the Third “Asian Security Conference” or “Shangri-La Dialogue” in Singapore organized by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), on “US Strategy in Asia-Pacific”, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld stated that the war on terror had “re-invigorated long-standing relationships with countries such as India and Pakistan”. He added that the US war on terror had also established new relationships with countries such as Yemen and Uzbekistan, improved intelligence sharing with long-standing allies and friends in Europe, Australia, and East Asia, and helped develop a “better relationship with China”.

11 June:India’s External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh, addressing a press conference in Washington along with US Secretary of State Colin Powell, stated that India would take a “new look” on the question of sending troops to Iraq in the context of UN Security Council Resolution 1546 on Iraq, passed unanimously.

12 June:External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh clarified his position on the question of sending troops to Iraq by stating that he was quoted out of context, and that no request had been sent for Indian troops for Iraq. He added that his statement to take a “new look” was towards the text of the resolution and not on sending troops.

21 June:The “India–United States Conference on Space Sciences, Applications, and Commerce” began in Bangalore in the presence of the Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office, Prithviraj Chavan, US Under Secretary of Commerce, Kenneth Juster, US Ambassador to India, David C. Mulford, and ISRO Chairman, Madhavan Nair.

22 June:The US Embassy in a statement in New Delhi said that all visa applicants in the age group of 14 to 79 years would be fingerprinted due to security concerns. US Embassy press officer Sara Striker added that this was not a country-specific measure and that it would act as an “anti-fraud measure”.

23 June:The US Assistant Trade Representative, Ashley Wills, told press persons in New Delhi that the US was prepared to accept the timetable for reduction of trade-distorting subsidies and improving market access laid down by the Group of 20 developing countries as part of a framework agreement on agriculture.

20 July:The United States rejected India’s request for the extradition of the former Union Carbide chief, Warren Anderson, in connection with the Bhopal gas tragedy, on technical grounds.

22 July:The Defence Minister, Pranab Mukherjee, told the Lok Sabha that military cooperation with the United States would be “within the parameters of an independent policy in keeping with past traditions”. He added that joint military exercises were an “integral aspect” of the military-to-military relations. He clarified that no specific offer for supply of missile defence technology was made or sought.

04 August:NASA named a new super computer SGI® Altix ™ 3000 at its Ames Research Centre, Moffett Field, California, after astronaut Kalpana Chawla, who was the flight engineer and mission specialist aboard the ill-fated Space Shuttle Columbia, which crashed on 1 February 2003.

25 August:Democratic lawmaker Frank Pallone wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urging him not to ignore the interests of the Kashmiri Pandit community in developing the future course of action in Jammu and Kashmir.

05 September:The Deputy National Security Advisor, Satish Chandra, addressing a seminar organized by the Delhi Policy Group, expressed reservations about the Bush administration’s ballistic missile defence (BMD) and the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI).

19 September:India and the US concluded the first phase of the Next Steps in Strategic Partnership (NSSP), during the visit of Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran to Washington. The Bush administration agreed to ease export controls on civilian nuclear and space facilities.

21 September: After talks between the visiting Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and US President George Bush, India and the US issued a statement, the “United States–India Partnership: Cooperation and Trust” which hailed the implementation of Phase One of the “Next Steps in Strategic Partnership (NSSP)” as the “beginning of a new era of cooperation and trust”.

22 September:Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, addressing a meeting of the American Chief Executive Officers, invited the American financial community to invest $150 billion in the infrastructure sector in India. Earlier, talking to the Wall Street Journal, Singh stressed that India had one of the largest pools of trained technical manpower, a large domestic market, and low operational costs.

25 September:Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told a press conference in New York that the best was yet to come in the relationship between India and the United States, due to the convergence of national interests between the two countries. Singh called for bilateral, regional, and multilateral efforts to deal with the threat of terrorism, which he described as a “great menace to the cause of human civilization”.

30 September:The US Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security formally notified the lifting of some sanctions against India’s space and nuclear entities. It, however, announced that seven ISRO subsidiaries would stay on the list, but with a change in the status that would see a simplification of the licensing and export processes.

05 October:The US Ambassador to India, David C. Mulford, offered FBI help to probe the bomb blasts in Assam and Nagaland and said that it was in terms of the ongoing bilateral cooperation on counter-terrorism.

06 October:The Union Home Minister, Shivraj Patil, told reporters that the offer by the US Ambassador to India to probe the Assam and Nagaland bomb blasts was a “gesture of extending help and sympathy” at a difficult time and that “it should be seen in that light only”. Special Secretary Anil Chaudury added that India had the expertise for dealing with such incidents.

03 November:Prime Minister Manmohan Singh congratulated President George Bush on his re-election. He assured Bush that India would stand by the United States “in strengthening international peace and stability” and as “partners against terrorism and weapons of mass destruction proliferation”.

07 November:Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told reporters aboard his plane on way to the India–EU Summit that “engaging the United States was a necessity” as the US played a very important role in the world economy and the world political system.

19 November: Congressman Gary Ackerman, Democrat, New York, was unanimously elected co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans.

20 November:Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran, in the US to attend the meetings of the US–India High Technology Cooperation Group, told reporters that India was “very satisfied” that there continued a “very strong commitment” to strengthen and expand relations between the two countries. The Bush administration informed Saran that no decision had been taken to sell sophisticated weaponry to Pakistan, including F‑16s.

9 December:India expressed “concern” to the visiting US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, about the “repercussions” of US arms supplies to Pakistan on the ongoing dialogue between New Delhi and Islamabad. Rumsfeld, in turn, said that the US understood Indian “sensitivities” in this regard and would remain continually in touch.

13 December:The US Ambassador to India, David Mulford, at a press conference in New Delhi said that the $1.2 billion American arms package for Pakistan, including eight P‑3C surveillance aircraft, would not have a negative impact on the ongoing India–Pakistan dialogue.

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