|Monday, March 27, 2000,
Assad hold crucial peace talks
sees power balance tilt
sets up naval base in Thailand
women on peace mission to Pak
|Pope seeks Jews forgiveness
JERUSALEM, March 26 Pope John Paul prayed at Judaisms holiest site, the western wall in Jerusalem, today and in an unprecedented gesture of reconciliation asked Jews to forgive centuries of Christian sins against their people.
Clinton, Assad hold crucial peace talks
GENEVA, March 26 (Reuters) U.S. President Bill Clinton and Syrian President Hafez al-Assad met for a crucial summit today aimed at reviving stalled Israeli-Syrian peace talks and heading off renewed violence in the West Asia, witnesses said.
U.S. officials sought to dampen expectations of an immediate breakthrough as Mr Clinton met the ailing 69-year-old Syrian leader under tight security in the ballroom of the Intercontinental Hotel. The meeting began shortly after 3 p.m. local time (6.30 p.m. IST).
The two leaders greeted each other with a handshake and chatted but did not speak to reporters during a brief photo session, White House spokesman Joe Lockhart said. U.S. officials said there would be no joint news conference afterwards.
Mr Clinton spoke by telephone to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak shortly before the meeting to consult for the second time in three days. A U.S. official said Secretary of State Madeleine Albright might fly to Israel to brief Mr Barak on the outcome. If the talks went well, there could be an agreement within next two weeks that Israel and Syria would resume negotiations, the official said, playing down any chance of an immediate announcement.
DUBAI (UNI): On the eve of much-awaited meeting between President Clinton and Syrian President Assad, Israeli Army Radio today claimed that the Jewish nation and Syria have thrashed out controversial matters and narrowed down differences between them.
A Kuna report, monitored in Amman, quoted the radio as claiming that Damascus and Tel Aviv, in behind-the-scene talks, agreed to keep major Israeli industrial projects on the Golan Heights following the Israeli pullout from the plateau and allow Israeli nationals to pursue working on the projects.
It was agreed upon that Turkey would allow Syria to pump in a larger amount of water from the Euphrates provided Damascus refrained from utilising tributaries of the Jordan river. Turkey has built several dams on the Euphrates, cutting the volume of water flowing to Syria.
The radio said Tel Aviv expressed readiness to withdraw military forces from the Golan in exchange for full normalisation of ties following the signing of a peace accord.
The radio quoted sources at the bureau of the Israeli premiership as saying that an Israeli presence in Damascus is much more significant than the presence on Mount Hermon alluding to Tel Avivs aspiration to normalise relations with Syria.
The Israeli sources predicted a breakthrough in the stalemated negotiations between Israel and Syria.
DAMASCUS: Syrias official media said President Assad will tell President Clinton that the only way for Israel to secure peace with Syria is to withdraw fully from the Golan Heights.
Al-Baath newspaper, organ of Assads ruling party, repeated Syrias position that a full withdrawal from the Golan Heights captured by Israel in the 1967 West Asia war was the key to ending 50 years of enmity between this country and Israel.
will tell his American counterpart that Syrias
strategic choice is to have just and comprehensive
peace...based on the Madrid land-for-peace formula,
it said, referring to the 1991 West Asia peace conference
in the Spanish capital.
China sees power balance tilt
Prospects of warm Indo-US relations following President Clintons trip to India are reportedly creating some concern for Indias big neighbour, China. Such concern may have resulted from certain wrong signals emanating from India or from Chinas own misplaced strategic calculations. Let us try to examine if these projections are borne out by the likely fall-out of Clintons visit.
First of all, Chinas concern could be because it concluded that the USA has recognised, de facto, Indias nuclear status. This has not happened. Despite all sweet talk President Clinton did and the adulation he won from the ruling coalition members of Parliament, he has not yet accepted Indias nuclear weapon status.
He has not lifted all post-Pokhran I or Pokhran II sanctions on Indian entities. Yes, he did recognise, for the first time, Indias right to decide by itself what would be the best bet for its own security. But he has, at the same time, repeated his behest that India first sign the CTBT. At best, the USA will, after India signs the CTBT, seeks modification of the NPT in relation to India and Pakistan if they agree to freeze their nuclear weapon capability at a low level.
No unconditional support for Indias claim for a seat in the UN Security Council has come either. Clinton talked about the horrors of nuclear war, but did not commit to the no first use by the USA itself. Nor did he make any commitment on total nuclear disarmament, first by the USA and followed by other four nuclear haves, as a way to establish lasting peace on earth.
Mr Atal Behari Vajpayees pious wish for warm Indo-US relations on equal terms has been heard but has it been absorbed?
China is fretting about independence sentiment in Taiwan and any prospect of complication on its Western border is unwelcome. In reality, China has never admitted it but it has remained a party to the larger Kashmir problem ever since Pakistan gifted away a large chunk of Northern Kashmir land to China. China is conscious of Indian sentiment against its hand-in-glove friendship with Pakistan. Perhaps that is why China has never condemned Pakistan for its terrorist activities. However, China did make a move to stop Talibans export of Jehad all the way to its Western province of Xinjiang through the conduit of Pakistan. It also supported Indias contention that Kashmir issue can be solved only through the Simla Agreement.
China is also worried about the effect of a stronger US-India relationship on regional stability. It is true, Clinton took a strong stand on the sanctity of Line of Control in Kashmir and violence (not terrorism) encouraged by certain elements in Pakistan. India expected Clinton to talk about terrorism spread by the ISI in Kashmir but he played his own diplomatic game and talked only about violence. He knew he would have to declare Pakistan a terrorist state if he talked about terrorism, aided and abetted by Pakistan. He does not intend to do that. So Chinas worry is largely misplaced.
One has also to watch the BJP-led coalitions obsessive reliance on Clinton administration for an endorsement of Indias strategic view against China (Defence Minister George Fernandess outbursts), supported by such heavy-weight US politicians as Benjamin Gillman, Larry Pressler, Pallone and even Jesse Helms. Something fishy may be going on here for China to be worried.
It is forgotten that nothing can harm Indias long term interests more than such a tilt.
But there is much more
disquiet in China, than just nuclear concerns. Beijing
fears renewed instability in South Asia if
the USA warms up to India and develops a cooler attitude
to Pakistan. China is still not out of its own hardliner
Communist cage despite its phenomenal economic reforms.
In fact, there are more common foreign policy factors
between China and India (adherence to Panch sheel) than
between the USA and India. That does not mean India
should adopt a hardline stance, projected by both the
Left (Communist) and the Right (RSS), of
anti-Americanism. India will have to adopt a much more
balanced attitude vis-a-vis both China and America.
HANOI, March 26 (PTI) India is exploring the possibility of drawing upon the expertise of the Vietnamese army in jungle warfare and guerrilla tactics to confront insurgency movements in North-East, Kashmir and Naxal affected areas, Defence Minister George Fernandes has said.
Vietnamese have a lot of experience in jungle warfare and in guerrilla tactics and we are looking whether we can draw from their experience, Mr Fernandes heading a high-level defence delegation said as he began a five-day visit here today.
Mr Fernandes, the first Indian Defence Minister to visit Vietnam, said besides exploring the chance to have Vietnamese guerrilla experts to train Indian security forces, he would also be taking up with his counterpart here efforts to get the Army personnel train in Vietnam on counter insurgency tactics.
The minister, who would be holding extensive talks with top Vietnamese leaders here, said the main focus of his visit would be to initiate a high-level security dialogue particularly on proposals to confront growing piracy in high seas in the Asia-Pacific region.
We already have a defence protocol and the time has come now to expand its scope as also to exploit the full potential of the tremendous existing business linkages, the minister said soon after arrival here.
Mr Fernandes, whose visit here follows close on the heels of the trip by US Defence Secretary William Cohen, said that concern over piracy on sea lanes had been expressed by all states of the region and Japan had asked for active cooperation from India on the matter.
Mr Fernandes, who
formally begins his visit tomorrow, will be calling upon
the Vietnamese President Tran Duc Luong, Prime Minister
Phan Van Khai, besides holding two rounds of official
talks with his Vietnamese counterpart Senior Lt General
Pham Van Tra. He will also meet Foreign Minister Dr
Nguyen Dy Nien.
LTTE sets up naval base in Thailand
COLOMBO, March 26 (PTI) The LTTE has set up a new Naval base at Thai holiday island of Phuket to transport large consignments of weapons and drugs after closing down its previous base at a Myanamar island, media reports said.
A detailed investigative report of Lloyds List, a leading publication of international shipping and insurance, published in the local Sunday Island newspaper has said that the LTTE first established its base outside Sri Lanka at The Twante island in Myanamar, using its good relations with Myanamars military junta.
But it vacated Twante following diplomatic pressure mounted by Colombo on Rangoon. The rebel group later set up its second base at Phuket island in Thailand to carry consignments of heroine and weapons, it said.
The report said during the time when the rebel group had its base in Myanamar, its fleet of about 11 ships carried large consignments of heroin for sale on the streets of the developed countries.
The colossal profits helped to fund the Tiger war machine another regular and more conventional trade was in hardwood, it said.
The report said that the
most of the LTTE ships were small general cargo ships,
registered in Panama, Honduras or Liberia and owned by
front companies set up LTTE Shipping Department in-charge
K. Pathamanthan, alias KP.
Indian women on peace mission to Pak
ISLAMABAD, March 26 As U.S. President Bill Clinton left South Asia after urging New Delhi and Islamabad to hold talks to reduce tension, a 36-member delegation of Indian women reached Pakistan on a mission to promote peace and love.
Led by Nirmala Deshpande, a former member of the Rajya Sabha, the team reached Lahore on Saturday by bus and was accorded a warm welcome by activists of human rights and womens organisations, including the Pakistan-India Peoples Forum, the Institute of Womens Studies, the Aurat Foundation, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) and the Democratic Commission for Human Development.
They said the resolution of differences between Pakistan and India should be through, what they called, boli (talks) and not goli (bullets).
Newspaper reports said the Indian women alighted from the bus as the hosts sang songs of peace. Indian writer and freelance journalist Rami Chhabra recited a Punjabi poem urging peace and love among the people of Pakistan and India.
Negotiations are the only way to resolve differences, including the Kashmir issue, Deshpande was quoted as saying in reports.
We dont have
anything (to do) with the politics between the two
countries. Our aim is to meet the people of Pakistan
jointly to work for the peace in the region, said
Deshpande, former chairperson of the Womens
Initiative for Peace in South Asia (WIPSA), which has
organised the tour.
Pope seeks Jews forgiveness
JERUSALEM, March 26 (Reuters) Pope John Paul prayed at Judaisms holiest site, the western wall in Jerusalem, today and in an unprecedented gesture of reconciliation asked Jews to forgive centuries of Christian sins against their people.
The pontiff, leader of the worlds 1 billion Roman Catholics, walked with the aid of a cane to the 60-metre long wall, a remnant of the perimeter of the Jewish second temple destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.
Standing only 3 feet from the massive stone wall, he read a printed and signed copy of a plea for forgiveness for the historic sins of Christians that he made at the Vatican earlier this month.
We are deeply saddened by the behaviour of those who in the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer and, asking your forgiveness, we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the covenant, the plea read.
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