Sunday, June 1, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Ties with India tops China agenda
T. R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

Russian President Vladimir Putin talks with Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) talks with Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee during their meeting on the "Silver Whisper" ship in St Petersburg on Saturday. — AP/PTI photo

St Petersburg, May 31
Even as the new leadership in China wants to accord “top priority” to friendship, partnership and constructive cooperation with India, Britain and France assured India that terrorism in any form is totally unacceptable and they will put “maximum pressure (on Pakistan) to reinforce this message.”

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who had separate meetings with the leaders of four of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council here late last night and in the forenoon today, was categorically told that the ball was in Pakistan’s court to move ahead on his fresh initiative of extending India’s hand of friendship yet again.

Mr Vajpayee’s discussions with Chinese President Hu Jintao for the first time assumed special significance with both leaders expressing the desire to expand and reinforce their bilateral relationship. Hu affirmed that constructive and vigorous Sino-India cooperation encompassing the economic sphere could result in this century being Asia’s.

French President Jacques Chirac and British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Pakistan President Gen Pervez Musharraf was scheduled to visit Paris and London in the next six weeks. They would once again take up the issue of terrorism with General Musharraf and pressurise Pakistan to effectively deal with this menace.

Mr Blair spent time in informing Mr Vajpayee that the Bush administration was putting pressure on Pakistan in dealing with terrorism as part of America’s bigger concept involving the future of that country. The Bush administration believed that Pakistan should act firmly as the threat of its Parliament being taken over by fundamentalists was very real.

Chinese President Hu acknowledged that his sojourn to India in 1984 had left a deep impression on him. He declared that the new Chinese leadership gave top priority to friendship with India. On Iraq, the two leaders shared the view that the United Nations had a dominant role to play in that country although the military operations in Iraq were over.

Underlining the need for focussed attention on Iraq’s reconstruction and development, Mr Vajpayee and Hu stressed that the UN should accord priority in this regard. The two leaders agreed that the Permanent Missions of the two countries in the United Nations would keep in close touch with each other in this regard. It was only in a general sense that Hu talked about Indo-Pak relations with Mr Vajpayee while saying that they were anxiously awaiting his visit to China next month. The dates for Mr Vajpayee’s trip to China would be announced simultaneously in Beijing and New Delhi soon. “The message is clear that both India and China are determined to expand, deepen and diversify their relations by synergising their economic potential and growth,” Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal said, briefing mediapersons.

Mr Vajpayee, who is specially in this historic city to celebrate its 300th anniversary, called on host and Russian President Vladimir Putin well past last midnight. Reinforcing the high-level contacts between the two countries, Mr Putin spoke of the multi-dimensional and strategic cooperation between the two countries.

In discussing the situation in Iraq, Mr Putin said the restructuring of the UN had become imperative without disturbing its ongoing efforts in various troubled spots in the world. About the meeting of the Nuclear Supplies Group (NSG), Mr Putin disclosed that Russia was open to constructive cooperation in civilian uses of nuclear energy.

During his meeting with Mr Chirac, Mr Vajpayee congratulated the French President for involving major developing countries in the process of consultations on the eve of the G-8 summit in France on June 2 and 3. Mr Chirac said the legitimacy of the G-8 had increased by consulting the developing and least developed countries which constituted 80 per cent of the global population.

The French President appreciated the initiative taken by Mr Vajpayee to mend Indo-Pak relations and said France “perfectly understands India’s position and that Pakistan should cease cross-border terrorism.” He believed that a great window of opportunity had been provided to Pakistan by Mr Vajpayee.

Pointing out that General Musharraf was scheduled to visit Paris in the first week of July, Mr Chirac said he would convey France’s unambiguous position and stand on terrorism. On Iraq, the stand of Paris and New Delhi remained identical. The French have also decided to review the NSG’s guidelines to facilitate civilian nuclear power cooperation. In this context, he felt there was scope for more cooperation in civilian nuclear power cooperation between France and India. He also expressed satisfaction with France’s defence relationship with India.


Meeting all permanent UNSC members

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee set a record of sorts by having an interface with all the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council in a span of 24 hours. In the case of US President George Bush, Mr Vajpayee came face to face at a special but select dinner tonight. In the case of others, he held separate but substantive discussions on bilateral, international and regional issues. They were host and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese President Hu Jintao, French President Jacques Chirac and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

China visit

The conditions are now propitious for Mr Vajpayee’s postponed visit to China. An Indian Head of Government will be visiting Beijing after a decade. The Prime Minister is expected to make an official visit to China in the third week of June, the dates for which will be announced simultaneously from Beijing and New Delhi. The dates being talked about for Mr Vajpayee’s China trip are June 22 to 26.

Trilateral meeting

The trilateral arrangement of the foreign ministers of Russia, China and India meeting whenever the occasion arises will continue. This happened for the first time during the U N General Assembly session in September, 2002. Additionally, Russia, China and India at the United Nations in New York will remain in touch on various issues for concerted and unified action.

Cultural contacts

Mr Vajpayee announced during his meeting with Mr Putin that India would contribute to restoring a section of the State Hermitage Museum displaying Indian art objects dating back to the Kushan and other periods. The effort is to ensure that rare objects of Indian art are not displaced. The Vajpayee government has also decided to hold festivals of the “City of Petersburg” in Mumbai and New Delhi in September. To step up cultural contacts with St Petersburg, it has been decided to bring 20 schoolchildren from the 300 year old city for the festivals in the two Indian metropolises.

City spruced up

There is a growing feeling among St Peterburgers that their glorious city or “Venice of the North” has been neglected by the powers-that-be in Moscow till Vladimir Putin became the President of the Russian Federation. Mr Putin hails from St Petersburg. The youthful Putin has done everything to make the tercentenary celebrations of his hometown a memorable affair.

India’s clout

India is the only special invitee outside the EU, G-8, Commonwealth of Independent States and P-5 to be invited for the tercentenary celebrations of St Petersburg. Impartial observers in Russia say that it brings to the fore the importance that Moscow attaches to India and its growing clout as a regional and economic power.

No other country in the Indian subcontinent was extended an invitation. Mr Vajpayee is in St Petersburg making a special gesture.


Blair rules out army action on Iran
Tribune News Service

St Petersburg, May 31
British Prime Minister Tony Blair has ruled out any military action against Iran despite the hardening of stand by US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld advocating a regime change in Iran or doing an Iraq on Teheran.

He conveyed this to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee during their talks in a “Dacha” or summer cottage on the outskirts of this city when the two leaders discussed some signals emanating from certain Western powers about Iran.

While Mr Vajpayee and Mr Blair agreed that priority must be accorded to Iraq’s stability and reconstruction and building of a democratic system in that country, they said the goal must be achieved through collective international endeavour in the context of U N resolution 1483.

Mr Vajpayee felt if there were concerns in certain countries in the West about the policies of Iran connected with the Shia factor, fundamentalism or some other issue, then there was an imperative need to hold talks with Teheran.

India firmly believed that any misigiving about the perceived policies of Iran in the West must be rectified by sitting across the table. It was vital that the challenge thrown up by Iraq was resolved through the auspices of the United Nations even though the world body had suffered a serious setback. The situation in Iraq must be stabilised rather than opening another front which was bound to complicate matters. It is also necessary that the authority of the UN was restored.

The Bush administration was assessing its policy towards Iran and adopting a tougher approach towards that country. Though Mr Rumsfeld was pushing his case for a regime change in Iran, the Bush administration wanted to end Teheran’s theocracy.

The State Department listed Iran as the most active state sponsor of terrorism for its support of Lebanon’s Hizbollah and militant Palestinian Jihard and Hamas. Under the Bush doctrine, Iran fit the bill of a threat to be dealt with, if necessary, through military action. Back


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