Tuesday, June 10, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Advani, Rumsfeld discuss defence cooperation
P. P. S. Gill
Tribune News Service

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had an unscheduled meeting with Deputy Prime Minister L. K. Advani at his hotel in Washington on Sunday. — PTI photo

Washington, June 9
The meeting between the visiting Deputy Prime Minister of India, Mr L. K. Advani and the US Secretary of Defence, Mr Donald Rumsfeld, at Willard Hotel here on Sunday, is being viewed as yet another step in the Indo-US bilateral relations aimed at stabilising the Asia-Pacific region, maintaining the freedom of sea lanes, particularly in the Indian Ocean region, and combating the menace of terrorism.

This unusual gesture has given new hope to India in its efforts to convince the USA to rein in Pakistan.

The fact that Mr Rumsfeld went to the hotel on a Sunday assumes significance in the Indo-American political relationship.

The President, Mr George Bush, is taking a personal lead in transforming relations with India. Consequently, India has acquired a prominent place in the global perspective of the USA, as reflected in the ‘National security strategy of the US’, brought out in September 2002 that describes India as a “growing” world power.

Sources told TNS that their meeting lasted 45 minutes and was attended by officials accompanying Mr Advani, including the Secretary Home, Mr R. Gopalaswamy and the Director Intelligence Bureau, Mr K. P. Singh, and the two Ambassadors, Mr Lalit Mansingh and Mr Blackwill.

Mr Rumsfeld requested India to consider sending at least one Army Division to Iraq for maintaining peace, as part of the deployment of a multi-national force there. Mr Advani promised to consider this and take an overview of all aspects into account before making a commitment.

Defence cooperation dominated the talks. Since April 2001, the two countries have exchanged visits by defence officials. A General Security of Military Information Agreement was also inked between India and the USA in January, 2002.

Sources said the meeting at Willard Hotel was rescheduled in view of other engagements of Mr Rumsfeld. The two also decided to hold the next meeting of the Defence Policy Group on August 6 and 7 in Washington. During the day, he is also scheduled to meet the Attorney-General, Mr John Ashcroft and Secretary, Homeland Security, Mr Tom Ridge. There is speculation of President Bush also meeting Mr Advani. He meets with the Vice-President, Mr Dick Cheney, at whose invitation he is here, tomorrow.

At the meeting, the issue of cross-border terrorism and role of Pakistan also cropped up. Informed sources told TNS that India is concerned at the growing activities of Pakistan’s ISI-Inter Services Intelligence in Bangladesh, which has come up as a major centre for training of terrorists and sending them across into India.

This issue will be taken up with the National Security Adviser, Ms Condoleezza Rice, whom Mr Advani is scheduled to meet at the White House here.



Advani family’s first foreign trip

Kamla Advani, wife of Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani
Ms Kamla Advani, wife of Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, with NRIs in Washington on Sunday. — PTI
Advani meeting with NRIs in Washington
Mr Advani meeting with NRIs in Washington at a community event organised by Indian Ambassador to the US Lalit Mansingh in Washington on Sunday. — PTI photo 

THIS is the first time ever that the Advanis — Mr L. K. Advani, his wife Kamla, son Jayant and daughter Pratibha — are travelling together abroad. In fact, says Jayant, that his mother is travelling abroad for the first time ever. Her brother Gulu Jagtiani lives in New York. She is shy of flying.

During the Air-India flight from Mumbai to Newark via Paris on Saturday, the atmosphere in the first class passenger cabin remained informal, with the Advani family members taking photographs, sharing experiences with accompanying families of officials and mediapersons.

Security: all equal

When it comes to security, all are equal. At the Mumbai airport when the Director, Intelligence Bureau, Mr K. P. Singh proceeded towards the boarding lounge, he was frisked by hand and a metal detector and underwent the checks.

Reception by NRIs

It was at a reception of the Indian-American community at Hotel Omni Shoreham Ballroom that Mr Advani was at his best when he narrated anecdotes to impress upon the Indians settled in the USA the significance of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government in New Delhi. He went on to say that in the past five years, India has progressed tremendously in several basic areas as diverse as telecommunication, information technology and cooking gas distribution.

He did some hard talk and wondered why Indians had not done well in sports and Olympics, despite an ocean of strength. Mr Advani did not forget to mention the menace of terrorism or how things had changed so fast after the September 11 and December 13 “attacks” on the two of the world’s largest democracies in the world.

Dual citizenship

Mr Advani said the issue of “dual citizenship” for the Indians in Canada and the USA was being expeditiously processed, when he spoke about the January 9 last convention of non-resident Indians held in New Delhi.

The Deputy Prime Minister was introduced to the audience by the Indian Ambassador to the USA, Mr Lalit Mansingh. Mr Advani talked of changing global geo-political scene and went on to talk of “economic-fuelled politics”, “knowledge-based” development and “role of brains trust and think tanks” in framing policies.

Temple visit

Mr Advani visited the Durga Temple in Fairfax Station, where he interacted with the Indian community. Accompanied by his family members, he prayed at the temples having idols of Durga, Hanuman, Ram-Sita, Laxman, Krishna and Shiv-Parvati. He explained to the select audience what the term “secularism” means and how often the people interpret it the wrong way.

Advani as journalist

What upsets Mr Advani is “sensationalism” in journalism. This was evident when he saw a newspaper published from New Delhi publish an item “Power struggle” and that BJP president Venkaiah Naidu wanted to be Deputy Prime Minister. Asked about this, he told TNS, “NDA is strong like a rock. Opposition is trying to create problems. It is raising issues like differences between and Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee. But the sad part is that even the media has joined this orchestra. I have been a journalist. “Should media go so low”?


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