Sunday, December 9, 2001, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Vajpayee favours strong trade ties with Japan
Ashwini Bhatnagar
Tribune New Service

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, Minister of State for External Affairs Omar Abdullah and Union Minister for Disinvestment Arun Shouri meeting with Indians at a reception hosted by Indian Ambassador Aftab Seath at Osaka on Saturday. - PTI photo

Osaka (Japan), December 8
The Indian delegation led by the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, today made a strong sales pitch before top Japanese trade and industry leaders pointing out that it was surprising that economic and business relations between the two countries do not adequately match the depth of cultural and spiritual ties between the two nations. “We must remove this mismatch,” Mr Vajpayee told the audience.

Besides the Prime Minister, the Minister for Disinvestment, Mr Arun Shourie, the Minister of State for External Affairs, Mr Omar Abdullah, President of the Confederation of Indian Industries, Mr Sanjiv Goenka and President of Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Mr R.S. Lodha stressed the need for both the countries to strengthen economic ties for mutual benefit.

The India business meeting held in the industrial district of Kansai was hosted by leading business associations of this area. The business turnover of this small area from knowledge-based and other activities accounts for about 20 per cent of Japan’s GDP.

Mr Vajpayee stressed the economic importance of Kansai district in his opening remarks last year when he said just as the then Prime Minister of Japan Mr Mori had started his August, 2000, visit to India not from Delhi but from Bangalore, he too was “delighted” to commence his visit from the “industrial heart of Japan.”

Mr Vajpayee said there was a natural convergence between India’s development needs and Japanese investment needs. “This complement, I believe, can nurture a vastly expanded agenda of economic and business cooperation in the new century.”

He said India was a huge country with enormous needs of infrastructure and investment in manufacturing and services and also had a large base of quality and value conscious consumers. “Japan has a huge economy,” he said and pointed out that it currently had significant underutilised capacity. The two should come together for achieving greater benefit from each other, he said.

Mr Vajpayee painted an optimistic picture of the Indian polity and economy before this select gathering. He said more than ever before India offered excellent opportunities to do business as because of political stability there was a growing commitment to carry out further political reforms across the political spectrum.

He sounded confident and drew applause when he said despite the “global economic slowdown, our growth prospects , even in the short term , are brighter than elsewhere. Our objective is to double per capita income in the next 10 years and this requires a minimum growth rate of over 8 per cent. We can and we shall achieve this higher growth rate by speeding up our economic reforms. In particular, we are committed to simplification, rationalisation and ensuring transparency of regulatory procedures and institutions.”

The speech obviously impressed the industry captains for they gave Mr Vajpayee a standing ovation when he ended his discourse inviting the Japanese to invest in India saying that “I have no doubt that your increased participation will not disappoint your shareholders — as indeed they have not for the Japanese firms already in India.” On his part, Mr Vajpayee went on to say “I encourage businessmen from both sides who are present here today to look for ways and means of enhancing cooperation. We are willing to look at any improvements that you may suggest.”

Mr Vajpayee attended a banquet later in the evening hosted by the Governor of Osaka Perfecture and Mayor of Osaka city. He is leaving for Tokyo tomorrow morning for interaction with top Japanese political leaders and other members of the Japanese business community.Back


Naga issue: PM holds talks with rebel group
Ashwini Bhatnagar
Tribune News Service

Osaka, December 8
Away from prying eyes at home, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee today had an hour-long meeting with the leaders of a major Naga rebel group in his effort to bring lasting peace to the trouble-torn region of the country. Mr Vajpayee, who arrived in the city yesterday evening, found time to have a direct dialogue with Mr Isaac Swu and Mr T. Muivah this afternoon. The two are leaders of the Isaac-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN).

Though the talks were supposed to be hush-hush, newsmen covering Mr Vajpayee’s visit to Japan came to know of it and sought clarifications from the government. After much deliberation, the official spokesman released a short statement confirming the visit. The statement said: “At the meeting, it was reiterated that a negotiated , peaceful political settlement remained the objective of the two sides. Further talks between the Government of India and the NSCN (I-M)will take place shortly.”

The PM was accompanied by Mr Brajesh Mishra, Principal Secretary to the PM, and Mr K. Padmanabhaiah, former Home Secretary.

Though the meeting was being speculated upon for the past couple of days, its duration and timing came as a surprise. It is believed that the rebel leaders spoke to Mr Vajpayee more freely and frankly.

However, Mr Vajpayee is not meeting the two leaders for the first time. He had met the group in Paris in 1998. This was subsequent to the peace talks that had begun with the Naga rebels in 1997 and the two sides had begun to discuss the conditions of ceasefire that they had agreed to a year ago.

The Government of India has been trying to bring the Naga rebels to the negotiating table for a long time. Former Prime Minister Narasimha Rao had also met the rebels outside India. Later, Naga leaders had met the then PM, Mr Deve Gowda, during the economic summit in Switzerland in early 1997. The two sides had agreed to a ceasefire but the process was thwarted as the modalities could not be worked out.

During the past one year, there has been a dispute between the government and the rebels over the area to be covered by the ceasefire. It was at the insistence of the rebels that the ceasefire was extended to all parts of the country in June and it led to violent protests in Manipur.

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