Monday, September 18, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

India acquiring new role in S. Asia: PM
From Hari Jaisingh

WASHINGTON, Sept 17 — It was a scintillating finale to what was admittedly a highly successful visit of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to Washington as the BJP-sponsored Indian American community last night extended a warm welcome to him and hailed him as an outstanding leader who has given India a new and respectful image in the comity of nations.

In a 45-minute superb speech in Hindi, Mr Vajpayee provided the audience with a vivid narration of India’s policies and principles that he said were aimed at achieving peace with the country’s neighbours, and asserted that India’s unity was unshakeable.

The gathering at the huge convention hall here literally went into ruptures as Mr Vajpayee taunted Pakistan seeking a dialogue on Kashmir.

While asserting that India was committed to establishing peaceful relations with the neighbours, he wondered what kind of dialogue could New Delhi have with Islamabad.

“Shall we discuss the weather or the welfare of his kith and kin?” he asked amidst prolonged laughter and cheers.

Mr Vajpayee’s main theme in his public utterances has been that his visit had carried forward the momentum of Indo-US relations in the most satisfactory manner.

He said India was being increasingly recognised as a responsible and stabilising force in South Asia and that this role could only grow in the coming years.

At a reception in his honour this afternoon, India’s Ambassador Naresh Chandra and the Prime Minister thanked President Clinton for the enormous personal commitment he had brought to bear on the success of the Indo-American dialogue.

The Prime Minister acknowledged that differences did exist between the two countries, but said that dialogue among democracies, in a new atmosphere of candour and trust, never failed to end some, if not all, the differences.

“From dialogue, we have moved to a convergence of thinking and outlook on a broad range of issues,” Mr Vajpayee said.

The Prime Minister pointed out that there was now a repositioning of India in global and regional affairs. India’s status in the international community had changed after the 1998 Pokhran nuclear tests. “India has earned its rightful place in world affairs,” he observed.

Emphasising that none would come to the country’s aid if it faced a nuclear holocaust, Mr Vajpayee said it was in India’s security interests that his government had decided to achieve nuclear capability.

He was quick to allay any misgivings and stressed that India had not become a nuclear power to launch an offensive against any country. Being a member of the nuclear club is primarily for self-defence and to act as a deterrent to those having hegemonistic or expansionist designs against India.

He was scathing in his attack against Pakistan for spurning his bus yatra to Lahore in February, 1999, aimed at genuinely forging good neighbourly and mutually beneficial ties by letting bygones be bygones. But Islamabad embarked on a military misadventure in the Kargil region of Jammu and Kashmir.

He regretted that the problem with the present military regime in Pakistan was that General Musharraf did not want to honour previous agreements. Under the prevailing circumstances it was not possible for India to restart the composite dialogue with Pakistan.

Mr Vajpayee declared that India would never allow any threat to its territorial integrity. Therefore, there was no question of Pakistan occupying Kashmir which is an inalienable part of India.

He said the international community had recognised that Pakistan had time and again nullified India’s efforts to normalise relations with that country. In this context he said during the Kargil conflict India showed tremendous restraint in not crossing the Line of Control.

Mr Vajpayee said it was also being increasingly realised that India was a responsible and stabilising force in Asia. This role could only grow in the coming decades. Besides, New Delhi’s concerns about South Asia were being appreciated and accepted widely.

The Prime Minister called upon Non-Resident Indian entrepreneurs in the USA to help in enlarging India’s Information Technology sector to world class standards.

“It is our dream to create world class conditions and facilities in India so that talented Indians can achieve the same success while living and working in India as they do when they come to the United States,” he said.

Explaining that his government had taken many initiatives to promote the IT and telecom sectors in India, Mr Vajpayee assured the Indian-American entrepreneurs that they would be provided assistance in every possible way in keeping with their patriotic fervour to contribute to India’s rapid and all-round development.

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