Friday, September 15, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Join hands to end terrorism
PM’s appeal to US Congress   *  Offers to host development conclave
From Hari Jaisingh

WASHINGTON, Sept 14 — The Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, is emphatic that India and the USA should close ranks in combating state-sponsored terrorism as distance offered no insulation.

Simultaneously, to fight the scourge of poverty and want of two-thirds of the world’s population, the Prime Minister threw up the idea of having a comprehensive “Global Dialogue on Development” and offered to host the all-encompassing conclave in New Delhi.

In a stirring speech at the joint session of the US Congress on the imposing Capitol Hill here today, Mr Vajpayee spoke of the deleterious impact of cross border terrorism even though such expansionist designs were bound to be crushed.

“You know and I know that such evil cannot succeed. But even in failing it could inflict untold suffering. That is why the USA and India have begun to deepen their cooperation for combating terrorism. We must redouble these efforts,” he observed.

Without naming Pakistan, Mr Vajpayee drew attention to “forces outside our country that believe that they can use terror to unravel the territorial integrity of India. They wish to show that a multi-religious society cannot exist.”

Declaring that these forces were pursuing a task in which they were “doomed to fail”, Mr Vajpayee recalled that no country had faced as ferocious an attack of terrorist violence as India had over the past two decades. The toll of the innocent lives lost in terrorist violence so far has been 21,000 killed by foreign-sponsored terrorists in Punjab and 16,000 in Jammu and Kashmir.

He told the American Congressmen that in recent hearings they must have unmistakenly recognised “a stark fact: no region is a greater source of terrorism than our neighbourhood.”

As the first Head of Government in six years to pay an official visit to Washington, Mr Vajpayee found it highly satisfying that India and the USA had taken a decisive step away from the past when security issues cast an unnecessary shadow on the relationship between the world’s two largest democracies.

“Let us work to fulfil the promise and hope of today,” he appealed in all earnestness. In offering India’s renewed hand of friendship, he spoke a shade emotionally of “removing the shadow of hesitation that lies between us and our joint vision. Let us use the strength of all that we have in common to build together a future that we wish for ourselves and for the world that we live in. We believe that India and America can — and should — march hand in hand towards a world in which economic conditions improve for all.”

The Prime Minister stressed that a situation which provided comfortable living standards to one-third of the world’s population but condemned the remaining two-thirds to poverty and want was unsustainable.

Therefore, Mr Vajpayee said the foremost responsibility that the 21st century “has cast on all of us is to change this unacceptable legacy of the past. It should be our common endeavour to overcome this legacy. I propose a comprehensive Global Dialogue on Development. We will be happy to offer New Delhi as the venue for this dialogue.”

On the future contours of Asia, which has been a matter of concern in the U S Congress, the Prime Minister said India sought an Asia where power did not threaten stability and security. “We do not want the domination of some to crowd out the space for others. We must create an Asia where cooperative rather than aggressive assertion of national self-interests defines behaviour among nations.”

In this context Mr Vajpayee said it had become necessary to re-examine old assumptions if Asia was to be fashioned on the ideals of democracy, prosperity, tolerance and plurality where a country’s vital interests were secure.

Inexorably, he maintained that India and the USA must work together more closely in the pursuit of these goals. In the years ahead, he told the Congresspersons that a “strong, democratic and economically prosperous India, standing at the crossroads of all the major cultural and economic zones of Asia, will be an indispensable factor of stability in the region.”

Mr Vajpayee was forthright in opining that in the Indo-US quest for peace and stability, the two countries must also define the “principles of our own engagement. We must be prepared to accommodate our respective concerns. We must have the mutual confidence to acknowledge our respective roles and complementary responsibilities in areas of vital importance to each other.”

He strongly felt that security issues which cast a shadow on Indo-US relations were unnecessary. “We have much in common and no clash of interests. We both share a commitment to ultimately eliminating nuclear weapons. We have both declared voluntary moratoriums on testing.”

Elaborating, Mr Vajpayee contended that India understood the concerns of the USA. “We do not wish to unravel your non-proliferation efforts. We wish you to understand our security concerns.

Supremely confident that the two countries were at a “historic moment in our ties,” the Prime Minister noted that “as we embark on our common endeavour to build a new relationship, we must give practical shape to our shared belief that democracies can be friends, partners and allies.”

Giving an overview about the economic environment in India, he said two years ago while much of Asia was in convulsion following an economic crisis, India held its course. In the last decade India had grown at 6.5 per cent annually which put it among the 10 fastest growing economies globally.

Mr Vajpayee said economic activity was getting more and more diversified every year. “We are determined to sustain the momentum to our economy: our aim is to double our per capita income in 10 years — and that means we must grow at 9 per cent per year.”

In achieving this objective, India has ushered in comprehensive reforms. The creative genius of Indians, their entrepreneurial skills and the contribution of the scientists and craftspersons will be released. “At the same time, we in India remain committed to the primacy of the state in fulfilling its social obligations to the deprived, the weak and the poor.”

Mr Vajpayee said: “As the two sides talk with candour, India opens its doors to new possibilities and new areas of cooperation — in advancing democracy, combating terrorism, in energy and the environment, science and technology and in international peacekeeping. And we are discovering that our shared values and common interests are leading us to seek a natural partnership of shared endeavours.”

Commending the U S President, Mr Bill Clinton, for his leadership and vision in steering the dialogue with India, Mr Vajpayee thanked the members of the US Congress for supporting and encouraging this process.

The Prime Minister said India and the USA were blessed with extraordinary resources and talent. Measured in terms of the industries of tomorrow, the two countries were together defining the partnerships of the future.

“Our two countries have the potential to do more to shape the character of the global economy in this century. We should turn the example of our own cooperation into a partnership that uses the possibilities of the new technologies for defining new ways of fighting poverty, illiteracy, hunger, disease and pollution,” Mr Vajpayee added.


Lukewarm response to address

WASHINGTON, Sept 14 — The Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee is the first leader in two years to be invited to Capitol Hill to address a joint sitting of the US Congress.

This singular honour bestowed on Mr Vajpayee catapults him to an entirely different league of statesmen who were specially chosen to share their thoughts and vision with American Congressmen.

Over the years, a wide section of Congresspersons, after keenly watching the developments in the Indian subcontinent, have felt that the Bill Clinton Administration should change track and begin a process of constructive dialogue with India.

One of the most worrisome aspects for Washington has been the shifting of Islamic fundamentalism from West Asia to South Asia, especially in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which has been targeting American interests.

American Congresspersons were seen taking Mr Vajpayee’s address in a cool manner. The mood was low key among the Congresspersons as they have their own priorities. It was not the same enthusiasm encountered in Central Hall of Parliament which was overflowing with members of Parliament to see and hear first hand US President Bill Clinton address the joint sitting of Parliament when he made an official visit to India in March this year.

When Mr Vajpayee was nearing the end of his speech, a large portion of the House had become empty. Out of 535 Congresspersons, less than a 100 were present. The House was efficiently filled by the staff, interns and visitors.

The absence of a large number of Congressmen was attributed to the campaign picking up momentum for the November presidential elections followed by that to the Senate.

Mr Vajpayee addressed the Congress seated in a chair which again was a special gesture shown to the Prime Minister because of his knee problem of osteoarthritis.Back

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