Sunday, September 15, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

‘Befitting’ reply by PM
Wide welcome for thrust & tone of speech
Hari Jaisingh

New York, September 14
Diplomatic circles here have widely welcomed the thrust and tone of the speech of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to the 57th UN General Assembly session yesterday.

“It is an honest response to multi-dimensional problems faced by a democratic but developing nation caught in a vicious circle of cross-border terrorism amidst pressing issues of poverty and development,” a seasoned Western diplomat sympathetic to India’s compulsions told me after Mr Vajpayee’s historic address. His speech signified a major departure from the position taken on such occasions by the Prime Minister and some of his predecessors in the past.

Both Mr Narasimha Rao and Mr I. K. Gujral had refused to get bogged down in contentious bilateral matters even though their Pakistani counterparts had given them sufficient provocation for sharp retort. They invariably preferred giving the international forum a broader perception of the problems besetting India and other members of the United Nations in their totality. Such an approach used to be quite effective then. But today’s highly complex situation demanded a focused and sharper retort to Gen Pervez Musharraf since silence at the august forum would have been seen as a sign of weakness.

The problem of Indian leaders and diplomats is that they have to confront a crafty military dictator who not only shamelessly distorts facts but lacks even elementary diplomatic sophistication that generally goes with heads of government.

In his speech, President Musharraf crossed all limits of propriety to outpour his venom against India in the most crudest form.

In the circumstances, it was felt by the Prime Minister’s advisers that the Pakistani ruler must not be allowed to go unchallenged on facts to set the record straight lest the rest of the world should give undue weightage to his tirade and distorted presentation of historical facts.

While providing President Musharraf a befitting reply on terrorism and Kashmir, Mr Vajpayee brought into global focus the serious problem of poverty and economic imbalances between the North and the South and gave the member-nations a four-point plan of action which he wanted the UN to adopt to end the systemic indifference of the developed world towards poverty.

The Prime Minister’s agenda of action has been well received by a large number of countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America which are looking for a new initiative to bridge the serious gaps between the rich and the poor.

“There is no escape from the current harsh realities. We have to build pressures on the developed world for proper response to the problems faced by the developing economies. We will have to redraw the socio-economic global map and go beyond the Johannesburg Summit for Sustainable Development which has highlighted serious flaws in the present thinking. It has clearly shown the linkage between poverty, trade, environment, national and international and corporate governance and global financial flows. The choice is clear: it is now or never. In this context, your Prime Minister has done well to provide the much-needed urgency to the voice of reason,” an Asian economist attached to the International Monetary Fund, who did not want to be identified, told me.

Some critics have noted with dismay Prime Minister Vajpayee’s silence on the Iraq issue. However, he has conveyed to US President George W. Bush India’s reservations on a unilateral action by Washington against Baghdad. New Delhi favours the UN forum to follow up the matter.


Annan’s assessment of J&K assailed

New York, September 14
India has expressed disagreement with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s assessment on the situation in the Indian subcontinent.

“We, of course, do not agree with Mr Annan’s assessment of the situation,” National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra told reporters here yesterday while reacting sharply to the assessment presented at the UN General Assembly.

Mr Annan had said that the “underlying causes” for the Indo-Pak tensions must be addressed, while noting that the situation in the region remained “perilous” and that the international community might have a role to play if a fresh crisis erupted.

Mr Mishra also pointed out that Mr Vajpayee specifically criticised the mindset that called for the “underlying causes” to be dealt with. Mr Annan had also termed tensions between India and Pakistan as one of the “four threats” to world peace. PTI


Gujarat riots shameful: PM
Hari Jaisingh

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee with Indian ambassador in USA Lalit Mansingh
Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee with Indian Ambassador in USA Lalit Mansingh at a reception hosted by the Ambassador in New York on Friday. 
— PTI photo Subhash Chander Malhotra

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee meeting members of the American Federation of Muslims
Prime Minister
Atal Behari Vajpayee meeting members of the American Federation of Muslims from India (AFMI) in New York Palace Hotel on Friday. — PTI photo

THE horrific carnage and communal killings in Gujarat time and again catches up with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee whenever he is on a foreign tour. It has been no different this time and Mr Vajpayee admitted he was pained and ashamed by the turn of events in Gujarat. 

He told NRIs at the reception hosted by India’s Ambassador to the USA, Mr Lalit Mansingh, that a situation should not be created which “forces us to bow our heads in shame.” 

Emphasising that there was no justification for the Gujarat riots, Mr Vajpayee regretted that it occurred every two years in the state and “this is not good.” In the changing global scenario, sustained efforts should be made to put India on the top. 

Mr Vajpayee underlined the need to work unitedly for progress and face the challenges of terrorism. He exhorted people to understand the real face of terrorism and said the 9/11 airborne terrorist attacks in the USA had touched everybody’s heart.

* * *

The reception also had its lighter moments with Mr Vajpayee saying the survival of his coalition government was not in doubt any more and speculation about his replacement had also died down. He said people were now saying that with the kind of Opposition the BJP-led NDA government had, there were no worries or pinpricks for the Prime Minister. Mr Vajpayee said even visiting foreign delegations had now stopped doubting the survival of his government. He had never thought of becoming Prime Minister and even if he occupied the high office he felt he would not last long. In many ways India was a strange country where “governments fall by the wayside on the issue of onion prices.”

* * *

Despite rating Pakistan as a frontline state in the fight against international terrorism, the US President has had to do some plain-speaking with Gen Pervez Musharraf. Besides dwelling on the imperative necessity to stop cross-border terrorism against India, Mr Bush warned the self-appointed Pakistani President of trouble if Islamabad did not return to democratic rule. He also told Gen Musharraf that American interests would be greatly affected by war in the region. “We have a big stake in South Asia. We hope that an end to infiltration will create the atmosphere that will lead to a resumption of dialogue between the two countries (India and Pakistan),” Mr Bush firmly told Gen Musharraf. Bush administration officials also said that “right at the very top of the meeting with Musharraf, the US President stressed how important it is that Pakistanis follow through on their commitments to return to full democracy.” Mr Bush believes a democratic, moderate and Islamic Pakistan could some day serve as a beacon for other Islamic states. Some food for thought for Gen Musharraf.

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