M A I N   N E W S

Natwar proposes N-doctrine for India, China, Pak
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 1
External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh today chose his first press conference to make a stunning and unexpected proposal which is bound to take the international diplomatic community by storm: a common nuclear doctrine for the three Asian nuclear powers- China, Pakistan and India.

The minister also made the following important announcements:

* Foreign Secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan to be held here on June 27 and 28.

* The expert-level talks with Pakistan on confidence building measures on nuclear issues to be held here on June 19 and 20.

* National Security Adviser J. N. Dixit to be India's interlocutor with China on the border issue in place of Mr Brajesh Mishra.

Mr Natwar Singh said the common nuclear doctrine for India, Pakistan and China proposed by him was required to ensure that all fears, apprehensions and suspicions were tackled because "it is too grave a matter". He said the objective of the proposed common nuclear doctrine was to have a policy of the Asian nuclear powers.

The minister said this matter would have to be discussed at the topmost level of the governments involved. As far as the Government of India was concerned the matter would be taken up for discussion whenever the appropriate bodies like the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) and Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs (CCPA) were constituted and their meetings held.

The minister, however, parried a question on the new government's stand on the nuclear doctrine prepared by the Vajpayee government and whether the UPA government would continue with the

No-First-Use policy with regard to nuclear weapons. "You should ask this question to the National Security Adviser," was his terse reply.

Mr Natwar Singh categorically said that "the dialogue with Pakistan will not be stalled at all". But at the same time, he devoted a lot of time and energy in giving a point-by-point rebuttal of a long set of complaints made by his Pakistani counterpart Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri yesterday.

Mr Kasuri had taken exception to Mr Natwar Singh's comments last weekend on four subjects: (i) The border cannot be altered; (ii) No plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir; (iii) Relations will be guided by the "bedrock" Simla Agreement; and (iv) the India-China model should be followed in India-Pakistan relations.

On the first, Mr Natwar Singh said there was no public announcement to this effect from the Government of India.

On the second, he said: "I thought this issue was dead long ago." On the third, his remark was that he had not mentioned only Simla Agreement but a host of other bilateral agreements and documents like Lahore Declaration and the January 6, 2004 Joint Statement. As regards the fourth, he said no formal proposal to this effect had been made by the Government of India to Pakistan. Mr Natwar Singh pointed out that India had supported re-entry of Pakistan into the Commonwealth and its admission to ASEAN's ARF and remarked: "The future of Indo-Pak relationship no longer lies in the past. We cannot forget the past but neither can we be prisoners of the past." The minister was at his eloquent best while talking about India's relations with the United States.

He denied that there would be any shift in India's policy of seeking good relations with the US.

He pointed out that India wanted a close acrimonious-free and multi-faceted relationship with the US and he had spoken to the US Ambassador to India about the same.

Mr Natwar Singh admitted that there were "differences" with the US but added that these differences would not be aired publicly but rather "addressed diplomatically and tactfully". He underlined the need to further "strengthen, deepen and widen" relationship with United States. He termed as "unfounded" apprehensions that there would be a change in India's policies towards the US and said New Delhi would like to base its ties with Washington on mutual understanding, accommodation, cooperation and consultations.

In this context, he also pointed out that the first foreign representative he received after he took over was the U S Ambassador here to whom he told that as good friends "we should also have frank discussions." 


Bangla Foreign Minister meets top leaders

New Delhi, June 1
The visiting Bangladesh Foreign Minister M Morshed Khan today met the top Indian leadership, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi, whom his Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia invited to Dhaka.

Apart from the Prime Minister and Ms Gandhi, Mr Khan met External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh, National Security Adviser J N Dixit, Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyer. He is scheduled to meet former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee tomorrow.

Mr Anwarul Haq, Minister (Press) in the Bangladesh High Commission here, told The Tribune tonight that Mr Khan, who has come here as a special envoy to Begum Khaleda Zia, delivered her personal letters to Dr Manmohan Singh and Ms Gandhi in which Begum Zia had extended an invitation to them to visit Bangladesh.

Mr Haq quoted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as telling Mr Khan that “Relations between India and Bangladesh had received the highest importance and all outstanding issues would be resolved through consultation and sustained cooperation.”

Both the PM and Ms Gandhi accepted the invitation to visit Bangladesh. While the Prime Minister said “mutually suitable dates” for his visit to Bangladesh would be decided, Ms Gandhi looked forward to visiting Bangladesh “shortly”, Mr Haq said. Ms Gandhi expressed her admiration for Bangladesh poverty alleviation programmes, education of the girl child and micro-credit schemes.

Earlier in the day, Mr Khan and Mr Natwar Singh held a joint press conference in South Block in an atmosphere of cordiality and bonhomie.

Mr Natwar Singh said he conveyed to Mr Khan his concern over the anti-Indian activities of some Indian insurgent groups operating from Bangladeshi soil even as the two countries pledged not to allow political considerations to affect their bilateral ties. He said that the two countries had decided to remain in constant touch with each other and discuss all contentious issues in a free and frank manner.

“We have decided that if any mishap (in our bilateral ties) happens, we will immediately talk to each other on the telephone...we will not allow any issue to have an adverse impact on our bilateral relations without sacrificing our vital interests,” Mr Natwar Singh said.

On his part, Mr Khan said Bangladesh had no territorial dispute with India and was also not a nuclear power. “There is naturally an area of friendship which we unfortunately could not harvest,” he added.

He said the two countries had agreed not to shy away from discussing any issue.”Back

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