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G-20: Impose restrictions at your own risk, warns PM
Ashok Tuteja writes from London

In a full page interview in the Financial Times, the only full-fledged interview with any of the leaders participating in the G20 summit here, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh cautioned world leaders against following “protectionist policies” in the form of imposing barriers to trade and restrictions on movement of people.

“ It is understandable that in times of a severe downturn, protectionist pressures mount but the lessons of history are clear. If we give in to protectionist pressures, we will only send the world into a downward spiral.”

India is hopeful that the summit, called to respond to the economic meltdown, will come out with a credible action plan aimed at finding an answer to the deepening crisis. The summit is expected to take decisions which will matter to each country.

The PM said there is a need for an international umpire to ensure that rich countries fulfil their pledges. The International Monetary Fund, he said, needs an expert crew to ensure that each country does its bit and any stimulus packages agreed by the Group of 20 ( G20) leaders meeting in London are “sustained and maintained” next year.

The Prime Minister also wondered if Islamabad was serious about fighting terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

“ We all know the epicentre of terrorism in the world today is Pakistan. The world community has come to grips with this harsh reality,” said the PM .

Asked why he thought the Lashkar-e-Taiba had been able to bounce back so quickly, the PM said, “ it is because the promises that the government of Pakistan has made to control terrorism and all its instrumentalities, they are either not able to control them or they are not willing to control them.”

The world, he said, had a responsibility to ensure that Pakistan lived up to its promise that it would not allow its territory to be used to promote terror attacks against India. Terrorism must cease to be a problem in Afghanistan as well as Pakistan.

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London Diary
Protests over G-20 expenditure

 Protesters demonstrate ahead of the G-20 summit, in central London on Wednesday.
Protesters demonstrate ahead of the G-20 summit, in central London on Wednesday. — AFP

Barack Obama is here on his first major overseas tour since his inauguration as the US President on January 20. And he is accompanied by nearly 200 security personnel, who will provide him a multi-layered security cover during his stay in London. Massive protests are under way in London against the G-20 meet. Various human rights and other groups are questioning British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s wisdom in hosting such a summit, which will cost nearly £20 billion to the treasury, at a time when the economic meltdown has already rendered thousands of Britons jobless and the crisis is only deepening. Protestors are camping all over London, particularly outside 10, Downing Street, the famous address of the British Prime Minister.

Britons rue IPL miss

Britons are hugely disappointed that the IPL cricket tournament has been taken to South Africa. When it was decided by the IPL organisers that the big-ticket tournament could not be organised in India as it coincided with the Lok Sabha polls and it would be held in South Africa or Britain, many Britons were excited that the event could take place in their country. “Obviously we are sad. We were expecting you will organise it here,’’ said a disappointed James, the guide of the Indian media party accompanying the Prime Minister. Better luck next times, James!

PM to meet Obama today

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will hold his first one-on-one meeting with US President Barack Obama here on Thursday on the sidelines of the G-20 summit, amid hopes that the two leaders will seek to further consolidate the strong Indo-US relationship. The meeting between the two leaders at the Excel Centre here may also see the 76-year-old Prime Minister, himself an economist of repute, giving one piece of advice to the first African American President, almost 30 years younger to the Indian leader, on how the world could grapple with the unprecedented economic crisis. Indian officials said the two leaders are expected to discuss a wide range of issues during the meeting, apart from the economic meltdown.

The India-Pakistan difference

The people here may have never seriously drawn a distinction between Indians and Pakistanis in this part of the world but they have suddenly started realising that there is a huge difference between the people of the two countries. The events of past few months in Pakistan, particularly the wave of terror attacks, have not only made them worried but the Pakistanis are being looked at with certain amount of suspicion. With memories of the London tube train terror attacks of July 2005 still fresh in their minds, they are wondering ‘when’ and not ‘if’ such an attack could recur in the country. They are hoping against hope that the G-20 summit would pass off peacefully.

Sarah Brown (L), wife of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, pours a pot of tea  with US First Lady Michelle Obama.
Sarah Brown (L), wife of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, pours a pot of tea with US First Lady Michelle Obama.

Meal not a big deal

In keeping with the sombre nature of the occasion, the British Prime Minister will hand over a modest gift to his guests at the G-20 summit on Thursday. It may be a meeting of the world’s most powerful men and women to find ways to tackle the global financial and economic crisis but the leaders coming for the summit will have to be content with simple meals. The British premier’s gifts for his guests, who include Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, is reported to be a pretty modest affair. He is likely to hand them over a goody bag that will contain a tie, a candle, chocolates and a tea towel.

Scribe’s ‘identity crisis’

A senior Indian journalist, accompanying Manmohan Singh, dropped the identity card issued to him by the Special Protection Group (SPG) while removing his woollen jacket at the Gatwick Airport soon after the Prime Minister’s arrival in London. And this led to a problem galore for him since he would not be allowed access to any place for Manmohan Singh’s engagements. Even as he frantically searched his room at the Crown Plaza Hotel to locate his identity card, the London Police located it at the airport and immediately got in touch with Indian High Commission officials in view of tight security restrictions. “Everybody must be careful with his/her identity cards…what if this misplaced identity card had fallen into wrong hands,’’ one senior official was heard saying. — Ashok Tuteja

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