M A I N   N E W S

PM open to talks with Musharraf
A.J. Philip
Tribune News Service

Port Louis (Mauritius), April 1
The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, said here today that it was the solemn obligation of India and Pakistan to ensure the safety and security of the passengers travelling on the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus. He was answering a question on the threat the militants posed to those travelling by the bus when it starts operation on April 7.

Addressing the journalists accompanying him on his first bilateral visit to Mauritius, he described as “minor hiccups” reports that the one-day cricket match between India and Pakistan might not be held. He said it would not cast any shadow on the ongoing peace process and the “caravan” would move on.

Dr Singh reiterated that he was ready to discuss with the Pakistan President, Gen Pervez Musharraf, any issue that had a bearing on India’s relations with the neighbouring country. There was no hesitation whatsoever in discussing any issue with him.

The Prime Minister said he would, on return, explore the possibility of extending visa-on-arrival facility for the holders of Mauritian passport. He was answering a question whether India would reciprocate the gesture of Mauritius, which grants visa up to 15 days for Indians arriving in the island nation.

Dr Singh said India would continue to provide any assistance that Mauritius required for its development. He was responding to a question whether Mauritius required Indian assistance given its level of development. “We do not thrust anything on Mauritius”, he added.

The Prime Minister said his visit was not in any way connected with politics in Mauritius. There was no political motive to the visit, which was long overdue. “I am very happy that my first bilateral visit abroad since I became Prime Minister 10 months ago has been to Mauritius”.

He said India’s relationship with Mauritius was unique. “We have strong self-evident compatibilities, and we benefit from the presence in Mauritius of a strong and self-confident community of persons of Indian origin”, he added.

Dr Singh said a comprehensive economic cooperation and partnership agreement between India and Mauritius would come into being in 12 months. It would enhance cooperation in trade in goods and services and promote investment flows.

“Mauritius is a significant tourist destination and aspires to become a knowledge hub — with strength in information technology and services. The Swami Vivekananda International Convention Centre and the Cyber Tower that he dedicated earlier today had come up with the support of India. “I have assured Mauritius that India will provide all possible assistance in meeting the challenges of globalisation”.

He drew the attention of the media to what he thought was a very important aspect. “India is a vibrant and successful democracy committed to plural values. Mauritius with its talented and successful Mauritian Indian community represents those same values. I would like to think this represents the Indian genius in a very striking and valuable manner, which holds lessons for other nations and regions.”

In the morning, the Prime Minister laid a wreath and unveiled a plaque at Aaparvasi Ghat, where indentured immigrants from India arrived between 1849 and 1910. He was accorded a civic reception at the Swami Vivekananda International Convention Centre. He also inaugurated the state-of-the art Cyber Tower, which is the first “intelligent” building in Mauritius.

He had discussions with the Deputy Prime Minister of Mauritius, Mr Pravind Kumar Jugnauth, the Leader of the Opposition, Dr Navin Ramgoolam, and the Chief Justice of Mauritius, Mr G. Ariranga Pillay, who called on him. The Prime Minister will return to New Delhi early tomorrow.

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