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No shift in foreign policy: Natwar
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 24
The External Affairs Minister, Mr Natwar Singh, today stated that there will not be much shift in India’s foreign policy and stressed that New Delhi will work towards improving relations with all countries, including Pakistan.

After assuming charge in his South Block office, Mr Natwar Singh told mediapersons that foreign policy, by its very nature, was “evolutionary, not revolutionary” and India would make efforts to improving relations with all its neighbours, including Pakistan and China, as well as world powers like the USA, the UK and Russia. He first spoke to the print media and shortly later to the electronic media.

The Minister did not fail to take a dig at the previous NDA government when he said his government’s foreign policy would not be “episodal”. Observers here take this remark as purported to be aimed at the Vajpayee government’s flip-flop vis-a-vis Pakistan.

On relations with Pakistan, he said all differences with Islamabad would be ironed out through negotiations. “The dialogue for friendship and good neighbourliness with Pakistan will continue and will be intensified in all areas and differences will be ironed out through negotiations.”

Mr Natwar Singh, a career diplomat who joined the IFS in 1953 and has had a stint as India’s Ambassador to Pakistan from 1980 to 1982, said: “I have some personal knowledge of the complexities and subtleties of the Indo-Pak relations”.

He maintained that the “bedrock” of India’s relations with Pakistan was the Simla Agreement and subsequent agreements between the two countries and remarked: “We will further strengthen, widen and deepen our relations with Pakistan.”

On the “multifaceted” Indo-US relations, the Minister said as two great democracies, “it is in our interest, it is in their interest and the interest of the world community that relations between India and the USA should be on a steady course and not episodic”.

On relations with China, Mr Natwar Singh said he looked forward to “intensifying our relations with China” which, according to him, were “problem-free except for the border question”. He said a mechanism has been set up for addressing the problem.

He showered accolades on former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi for breaking the ice with China and contended that the breakthrough in Sino-Indian relations came in December, 1988 when Mr Gandhi made his historic visit to China.

Mr Natwar Singh has a busy agenda ahead of him with the Indo-Pak peace process at a crucial stage and tough negotiations under way with China to expeditiously resolve the complex boundary issue.

Besides, the deteriorating situation in Iraq and the West Asia crisis are other areas that are likely to engage his immediate attention.

Bharatpur-born 73-year-old Natwar Singh graduated from the prestigious St Stephen’s College here and continued his higher education at Cambridge and Peking University in China. He has headed Indian missions in Poland (1971-73), Zambia (1977) and served in Britain as Deputy High Commissioner from 1973 to 1977.


Powell, Straw for strengthening relations
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 24
US Secretary of State Colin Powell and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw today telephoned the new External Affairs Minister, Mr K. Natwar Singh, and congratulated him on his assumption of the office, a foreign office spokesman said.

Mr Powell said he looked forward to working with Mr Natwar Singh, while the latter said that he looked forward to working with Mr Powell for “further deepening and enhancing these relations”.

Mr Natwar Singh recalled his meeting with Mr Powell during the US leader’s recent visit here when he called on Congress President Sonia Gandhi. He expressed satisfaction at the “excellent” bilateral relations between India and the USA.

During the conversation with Mr Straw, the two leaders reviewed bilateral relations as well as international issues, including the outcome of the recent meeting of Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) in London.

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