Wednesday, September 13, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

PM’s yatra not Pak-centric
India keen on more US investment
From Hari Jaisingh

NEW YORK, Sept 12 — There is an air of cautious optimism that Indo-American ties will receive an added impetus through greater investment flows when Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee undertakes his first official visit to Washington late on Wednesday afternoon.

There is no doubt Kashmir, which has bedevilled the relations between India and its immediate northern neighbour Pakistan, will figure prominently along with the non-proliferation issues in the talks between the host President, Mr Bill Clinton, and Mr Vajpayee during the latter’s four-day stay in the American capital.

Mr Vajpayee’s sentiment that India and the USA are natural allies has been reciprocated in good measure by the Clinton administration. Senior officials of the Prime Minister’s Office have expressed their keenness to build on the paradigm shift in Washington’s policy towards South Asia.

This aspect has also been acknowledged rather grudgingly by the Chief Executive of Pakistan, Gen Pervez Musharraf, who experienced a general lack of enthusiasm to his military rule among the Heads of State and Government present at the just concluded Millennium Summit of the United Nations.

The White House and State Department spokespersons did not hedge in expressing Washington’s concern about the prevailing situation in the Indian subcontinent. They said Mr Clinton wanted the tension and sabre-rattling to end so that both India and Pakistan resume the dialogue aimed at resolving the Kashmir tangle.

Mr Clinton’s approach in this regard will be a reaffirmation of his observations during his five-day visit to India in March when he underlined the need for restarting the dialogue by exercising restraint, respecting the Line of Control (LoC) and abjuring cross-border terrorism and other kinds of violence.

Indian officials emphasise that Mr Vajpayee’s visit is not centred around Pakistan though the Prime Minister will urge Mr Clinton to use his persuasive power to rein in Pakistan so that Islamabad stops cross-border terrorism.

The Clinton administration wants India to give a firm commitment on non-proliferation issues and sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Mr Vajpayee will again inform Mr Clinton that his National Democratic Alliance government is endeavouring to evolve a national consensus on signing the CTBT as has been the tradition in New Delhi on foreign policy matters.

On the issue of sanctions imposed by the Clinton administration after the May, 1998, underground nuclear tests in Pokhran, Mr Vajpayee will reiterate that these were uncalled for restrictions and should be removed. The Prime Minister’s aides are quick to point out that these sanctions have not had an adverse bearing on India’s economy.

Without dilating on whether the existing sanctions will be removed, an American spokesman said the President “has worked with the Congress to give him flexibility to be able to respond as the situation improved. We have done that and it is something we are prepared to continue.”

Simultaneously, a State Department official noted that the USA desired widening cooperation across a broad spectrum of common interests. “These will be discussed by Mr Clinton and Mr Vajpayee. We anticipate that the discussions between Mr Clinton and Mr Vajpayee will contribute to a closer and qualitatively new relationship.”

Mr Vajpayee is scheduled to address two important meetings of captains of industry in New York and Washington, respectively. The Prime Minister will assure American business that investments in India are safe. His government has already streamlined matters and steps are under way to effectively do away with the red tape and procedural impediments.

India is confident of wrapping up agreements in critical areas like power and telecom. Briefing mediapersons accompanying the Prime Minister, India’s Ambassador to the USA, Mr Naresh Chandra, and the Secretary of Economic Affairs in the PMO, Mr N. K. Singh, said the other areas which had a tremendous potential for cooperative endeavours included information technology.

Mr Singh said there was a proposal to extend the Indo-US memorandum of understanding (MoU) for another five years to reinforce cooperation in the energy and power sectors. The exercise of interacting with business leaders in the key sectors of the economy assumes importance so as to convey the message that their investments are safe in India. New Delhi wants to attract greater foreign investment flows from the USA as the response thus far from American business leaders has not been all that encouraging.

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