Thursday, February 10, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

India ready to take US help
Anti-terrorist efforts to be stepped up

WASHINGTON, Feb 9 (PTI) — In a major step to counter terrorism, India has agreed to take US assistance in tackling the menace as the two countries have decided to intensify their cooperation to bring to justice hijackers of the Indian Airlines flight IC-814 as part of their joint efforts to combat international terrorism.

At the inaugural meeting of the recently set up joint working group (JWG) on counter-terrorism here yesterday, “the two sides agreed to intensify their joint cooperation to ensure that the perpetrators of the hijacking of the Indian Airlines flight 814 are brought to justice.”

A statement issued by State Department spokesman James Rubin at the conclusion of the meeting said the two sides expressed concern at the rising menace of international terrorism, extremism and drug trafficking.

“The two sides unequivocally condemned all acts, methods and practices of terrorism as criminal and unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious, or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them.”

It said the Indian Government had agreed to the US offer of anti-terrorism assistance programmes, the specifics for which would be determined at future meetings.

The American side at the talks was led by the State Department’s coordinator on counter-terrorism Michael Sheehan, while the Indian team comprised, Alok Prasad, Joint Secretary, External Affairs, and Rakesh Hooja, Joint Secretary in the Home Ministry and two counter-terrorism experts.

The decision to set up the group, laying ground for unprecedented cooperation in anti-terrorism between the two sides, was taken in January 2000 at the 10th round of talks on security and disarmament issues between Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh.

At yesterday’s meeting, the statement said, the two sides also decided to convene a meeting of each side’s legal experts in April to discuss an Indian-proposed UN convention on terrorism.

“Inter-agency teams from the two countries agreed on a range of measures to enhance cooperation between the two countries to combat international terrorism. The two sides would share experience, exchange information and coordinate approaches and action.

It said both India and the USA have a shared interest in strengthening a regime to counter international terrorism. “This working group is intended to enhance the effectiveness of our efforts to counter international terrorism world-wide.”

The next meeting of the working group will be held in India at mutually agreed dates, it added.

Meanwhile, the USA has asserted that as the lone superpower, it must get involved into Indo-Pak and other international disputes to “advance the cause of peace” though it “cannot impose solutions”.

US Defence Secretary William Cohen, in his annual report to the Congress, said: “While the USA cannot impose solutions on regional disputes (like the conflict between India and Pakistan), its unique military and political position demands that it plays an active role in promoting regional stability.


Clinton visit ‘not issue-specific’

NEW DELHI, Feb 9 (PTI) — India today said US President Bill Clinton’s next month’s visit here was not linked to any specific issue but related to a much broader canvass for establishing a framework for a qualitatively new relationship between the two countries.

Differences on the NPT and some other issues did exist between the two largest democracies “but that does not preclude the two sides from having close, productive and warm relations”, a foreign office spokesman told reporters here.

He was asked about US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s remarks in Washington that the Clinton Administration continued to have very serious concerns about dealings on Kashmir and issues of non-proliferation.

Albright had also stated that the presidential visit was an important one “but it is not just a sign that everything has been dealt with and all problems have been resolved.”

The spokesman said it would be a mistake to link the visit to any specific issue.



A room for President Clinton

NEW DELHI, Feb 9 (UNI) — The advance team of US President Bill Clinton preparing for his India visit is returning here tonight after visiting several cities and will leave for Washington tomorrow morning.

A senior embassy official said the advance team comprised of around 12 officials, including White House staff, schedulers and the press corps. It arrived a week ago and surveyed luxury hotels in the national capital and other cities for the US President’s entourage.

Anywhere between 750 to 1,500 officials, business leaders and security personnel, including nearly 200 journalists, are likely to accompany Mr Clinton, the first US President to visit India in the past 22 years.

Cities under consideration for the visiting dignitary include Hyderabad, Bangalore, Agra, Goa, Jaipur and Udaipur.

A second advance team will arrive here this month-end to examine further details. Preparatory teams for the presidential visit are likely to review security measures wherever he is likely to go.

Embassy officials say Mr Clinton and his team will arrive here in three planes on March 20. While Airforce one will carry the President and his close aides, the second plane will be for security personnel and communication specialists while the third will bring media persons.

There will be two limousines for each city that Mr Clinton visits and a communication vehicle will follow him wherever he goes.

US officials here say the President’s five-day programme has not been finalised. It is still unconfirmed whether or not he will address a joint session of Indian Parliament.

Meanwhile, hotel industry sources say there will be no shortage of hotel rooms while the US President and his team are here. Luxury hotels have a combined room capacity of 5,500 with about 300 suites.

Officials say hotels are normally taken over by security personnel two days prior to the guests’ arrival and sanitised. Since Mr Clinton will be accompanied by at least 100 immediate staff, the chances of his stay at the Rashtrapati Bhawan are remote.

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