Wednesday, January 19, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Indo-US talks on disarmament

LONDON, Jan 18 (PTI) — India and the USA today held talks on disarmament and non-proliferation in the run-up to President Bill Clinton’s visit to New Delhi, expected in March.

External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh and US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott began their two-day 10th round of parley’s here in a veil of secrecy with officials from both sides unwilling to disclose the venue of the talks.

A spokesperson for the US Embassy here said the issues on the agenda included reduction of tension between India and Pakistan, besides non-proliferation and security.

At the talks, the Indian side also included Ambassador to US Naresh Chandra, Joint Secretary (Disarmament) R.Sood, Joint Secretary (Americas) Alok Prasad and Joint Secretary (Indo-Pakistan Affairs) Vivek Katju.

Mr Talbott was assisted by Assistant Secretary of State Karl Inderfurth and State Department Coordinator for Counter-Terrorism Michael Sheen.

After the talks here, Mr Inderfurth and Mr Sheen will leave for Islamabad to hold parleys with the military regime to impress upon it to restore democracy, normalise relations with neighbours, fight terrorism and bring about economic reforms, diplomatic sources said.

Mr Jaswant Singh and Mr Talbott had met in November in London during which New Delhi and Washington had agreed to intensify their contacts at all levels and to lay the foundation for a broad-based forward-looking relationship between the two countries.

The issues being discussed by them related to disarmament and non-proliferation with emphasis on CTBT, the fissile material cut off treaty (FMCT), control over exports of sensitive products and technologies and defence posture.

The parleys coincide with the visit to New Delhi of US Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, who handed over a letter from Mr Clinton to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

Last month’s hijacking of the Indian airlines plane and Pakistan’s involvement in it might also figure in the two-day dialogue.

The two leaders may also concentrate on reducing tensions between India and Pakistan as also other issues of mutual concern, official sources said.

Mr Talbott had recently said in an interview to an Indian daily that the previous rounds of talks had established the foundation for a far better understanding between the two countries on these issues, but it did not mean that they had reached an agreement.

India has made it clear that while it is working on a broad-based consensus on the issue of CTBT, it hoped Washington would lift sanctions against New Delhi to create a conducive environment.

Meanwhile, India and Britain have discussed the possibility of bilateral cooperation on pollution control as well as multilateral cooperation in the United Nations and other fora.

The possibility was explored at a 40-minute meeting between Mr Jaswant Singh and British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott here yesterday.

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