M A I N   N E W S

Manmohan in New York for UN session
Talks with Bush, Pervez on agenda

New York, September 13
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived here today with a heavy agenda covering meetings with US President George W. Bush, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and other world leaders who have assembled for the UN General Assembly (UNGA) session.

The meeting with the US President comes a day after Washington endorsed Japan’s entry into the UN Security Council, saying Japan was the only likely candidate for permanent membership.

The meeting, their second in two months, comes close on the heels of strong concerns voiced by US Congressmen over Iran’s nuclear programme and that India’s close proximity with Teheran could have an adverse fallout on the landmark Indo-US nuclear deal.

Also, a hitherto undisclosed assurance by President Pervez Musharraf that he would take tough action within a month against groups based in Pakistan, which were fomenting violence in Jammu and Kashmir, would figure in the discussions between him and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here tomorrow.

The assurance was conveyed personally by the Pakistani leader when he spoke to Singh on July 19, sources here said.

Mr Singh, who will be addressing the UN General Assembly tomorrow, was given a ceremonial farewell at Orly Airport before he boarded the special Air India flight for New York along with his delegation that included External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh, National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan and Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran.

The Prime Minister, who will address the UNGA session on September 15, will host a dinner tomorrow for President Musharraf.

The meeting and the dinner with General Musharraf are perceived to be important in the backdrop of Dr Singh’s statements that he still trusted the Pakistan President and ‘’would do business’’ with him.

Both leaders are expected to review the steps taken so far in normalising relations and the progress of the Composite Dialogue Process.

The topics will include the level of violence in Kashmir, infiltration as well as continuing existence of terrorist infrastructure on the Pakistani soil.

More specific issues like Siachen and Sir Creek will also get mentioned, the sources said.

In April, Dr Singh and General Musharraf had met in New Delhi when the Pakistan President had visited India to watch an India- Pakistan cricket match.

Moderate Hurriyat Chairman Mirwaiz Omar Farooq, is also scheduled to meet President Musharraf on September 17, a day after Dr Singh leaves for home.

In New York, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, the Prime Minister will also have bilateral meetings with Chinese President Hu Jintao, South African President Thabo Mebeki and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The Prime Minister will participate in a function to launch the UN Democracy Fund along with the US President and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. — PTI



PM leaves France after successful 3-day visit
T R Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

Paris, September 13
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh left France this afternoon after a hugely successful three-day visit which put the India-France strategic relationship on an overdrive, with India determined to diversify its purchases in modernising its armed forces along with striving for energy security.

The framework agreement for defence cooperation is expected to be wide-ranging in its ambit as the Indian armed forces direly require modernising its weaponry, battleships and fighter aircraft.

The Navy’s long-standing demand for an attack submarine has finally come through and Indians are convinced that they have got the best deal for the Spanish Franco attack submarines which has been inordinately late in coming.

France has demonstrated its innate capability of meeting India’s needs be it avionics or high-tech equipment. That France has agreed to transfer technology immediately for the six Scorpene submarines to be built in India at the Mazagon docks in Mumbai is being seen as yet another reflection of France’s sincerity in supporting New Delhi, whose role as an emerging power cannot be undermined.

French President Jacques Chirac’s appreciation of India’s burgeoning energy needs and his readiness to assist with generating nuclear power and other non-polluting energy has compelled the Nuclear Suppliers Group to sit up and take note.

Mr Chirac has not been found wanting in acknowledging that India’s track record in non-proliferation has been unimpeachable. The singular important aspect of Dr Singh’s sojourn to Paris has been France’s assurance of taking the lead with the US and Britain to overcome restrictions in making available critical items for enlarging nuclear power generation in India.

It is only since 1998 that France has turned its attention towards South Asia. Prior to that, France did focus politically, strategically and economically in contiguous regions of the Middle East and South East Asia. The trend in the past four years has shown a marked shift in emphasis in French policies towards South Asia.

France has pursued an advance dialogue with, what it calls, “emerging poles or powers” like India and China and possibly Brazil. With India becoming a defacto nuclear power, it has shown compliance with the non-proliferation regime.

A senior functionary of the French Foreign Office told the Tribune that “it was a historic abnormality that there were no strong relations between France and India. We are catching up with the times. The dialogue we have established with India has been valuable and has put the political relations between the two countries on a very high orbit.’

Mr Chirac himself affirmed that India had emerged as an important regional and global player and it was in everyone’s interest that New Delhi grew from strength to strength. Significantly, in South Asia, France has made a strategic choice to be with India.

Pokhran II in 1998 is what made France sit up and take note of India. It believed that the political changes in New Delhi after 50 years of independence had the portends of propelling India both as a regional and global power.

This recognition prompted the unfolding of its imperatives for building up a comprehensive political and strategic relationship with India.

France visualises Massive Defence industrial cooperation with India. As France has the state-of-the-art defence production capabilities, Indian upgradation plans calls for sizeable acquisition of military hardware in the next 25 years. As per foreign estimates this could incorporate combat aircraft - 300, main battle tanks - 1000, warships - 40, submarine — 15, combat helicopters - 500 and artillery S P guns - 2000.

France’s shift in policy emphasis in South Asia brings to the fore its decision to build a comprehensive political and strategic cooperation with India, which was kindled in 1998.


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