New Delhi: France said Friday it had put on hold the sale of heavy military hardware to Islamabad until it explains its role in the Mumbai terror attack and how Osama bin Laden lived in Pakistan for so many years.
France has also expressed the hope that Pakistan’s dialogue with the US on terrorism would throw light on questions that have cropped up in the wake of Osama’s killing May 2 by American commands.
French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet told reporters here that Osama’s killing in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad had raised questions that needed answers.
Longuet did not name the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), which it is widely believed may have sheltered Osama.
On the sale of military equipment, Longuet said Islamabad would not get them till such time it provided satisfactory clarifications.
“This point was raised during the bilateral meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in Paris recently. I can tell you that France is only selling Pakistan equipment that can be used for electronic interception to fight terror,” the French defence minister, who wound up his two-day visit to India, said.
“In fact, heavy military equipment is not being sold. We have discouraged any request from Pakistan for heavy equipment,” he added.
Asked about the recent revelations on ISI’s involvement with the 26/11 Mumbai terror strike, Longuet said: “Terror cannot be a weapon of anybody or any government.
“After the death of Osama, Pakistan should be given an opportunity to explain its position vis-a-vis terrorism,” he added.
Noting that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Islamabad Friday, Longuet said France was keenly watching the discussions between the US and Pakistan on terrorism and awaiting the outcomes of the talks.
Lamenting that the US was not openly sharing all the information on terror that it receives from Pakistan with its coalition partners, including France, he said at least now the information would be shared.
On his meeting with the Indian defence minister Thursday, Longuet said A.K. Antony wanted to know about France’s opinion on Afghanistan following Osama’s killing.
“I said we are in the framework of the (US-led) coalition and we are aiming at progressive transition by 2014. We stick to that commitment,” he added.
Hailing India as “a strategic partner” of France, Longuet said New Delhi was “a factor of stability and peace” in the world and that was the reason France supports New Delhi’s candidature as a permanent member of the UN Security Council.
Longuet said his visit to India was part of the strategic bilateral agreement between the two countries and a follow-up to the visit of French President Nicolas Sarkozy to India in late 2010.
Noting that the defence relationship between the two nations was going strong, he said it had translated into sophisticated war games and training between their armed forces.
Apart from the Garuda series of air exercises and Varuna naval exercises, the two countries would launch their Shakti series of army exercises this year.