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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
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PM, Obama agree on terror
Ashok Tuteja writes from London

Expressing satisfaction over the outcome of the G-20 summit, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh ruled out the possibility of India approaching the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to grapple with the economic crisis.

India has nearly 250 billion dollars in reserve and “we don’t visaualise any need to go to the IMF,’’ he said at a press conference at the conclusion of his three-day visit here to attend the G-20 summit.

Hailing the achievements of the UPA government, the PM said the ruling coalition had ensured an average economic growth of 8.6 per cent per annum during the last 5 years.

When it was pointed out to him that all countries would now come under the IMF surveillance, the Prime Minister shot back: as far as developing countries are concerned, they have been under excessive survelliance as compared to developed nations. The latest step will induce the IMF to keep surveillance on the developed world from where the (economic) crisis originated.’’

“We must tackle the crisis in a way which does not create other problems for the future. For instance, protectionism or restrictions on the free flow of trade and persons would be counter-productive, he said’’ Replying to a question, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he could guarantee that the Lok sabha polls would be free and fair and expressed confidence that the Congress will emerge as the single largest party.

Earlier the Prime Minister had his first substantive meeting with President Barack Obama, who hailed India as a ‘global power’, critical to meeting the challenges of the 21st century, and said the US was ready to work with New Delhi to counter the forces of terrorism.

The two leaders, who had a nearly hour-long meeting soon after the conclusion of the G-20 summit here, resolved to give a new direction to relations between the world’s largest democracy and the world’s oldest democracy.

The 46-year-old first African American President shook hands with Manmohan Singh and posed for photographers with the Indian leader, before they went into their meeting.

“The rise of India is attributed to you. Our relations with India are very cordial. I express my admiration for you. I look forward to visiting India. By the time I end up talking to you, I can call you up as a friend.’’ Obama told Manmohan Singh. He underlined that there was a lot of scope for cooperation between the two countries in various areas, including science and technology, climate change and energy.

The Indian Prime Minister said the people of India and he personally had enormous respect for Obama, especially because of the values held by him. ‘’You are the symbol of hope,’’ he told the American president, adding a warm welcome awaited Obama and his family in India. Asked if the issue of Afghanistan and Pakistan came up during the meeting, he said: “We did discuss the developments in Afghanistan. We agreed that our two countries must work together to counter the forces of terror.’’

On whether the controversial H-1B visa issue also came up during the meeting with Obama, Manmohan Singh said: “I raised protectionism in general, not H-1 B visa in particular, and both of us agreed to do everything in our powers to roll back protectionism.’’

Asked if he was satisfied with actions taken by Islamabad to book the masterminds of the 26/11 attacks, he said: “We expect Pakistan to do all that is required to bring to book the culprits of the attacks. We have given them answers to all their questions. The ball is now in Pakistan’s court.” Pakistan has to convince the international community that it was sincere in its statements that it would not allow the misuse of its territory for anti-India activities.

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‘Pak sees India as main threat’
Ashish Kumar Sen writes from Washington

Even as Pakistan is hit regularly by terrorists operating on its soil, many Pakistani leaders consider India a "principal threat" and some see the extremist groups as "a potential strategic asset against India," according to a top US general. Gen. David Petraeus, head of U.S. Central Command, said US efforts in Pakistan will focus on changing this attitude. The Pakistanis need to realise that "the biggest threat to their country's very existence is the internal extremist threat rather than the threat to their East," he told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Wednesday.

Petraeus who managed the surge of US troops in Iraq, said it would be of “enormous importance” to reduce tensions between India and Pakistan so that the latter can "intellectually, as well as physically," focus on what the US sees "as a much more important existential threat to Pakistan in the internal extremists than continuing to have that massive face-off against India to their east."

He noted that “one of the many tragedies of the Mumbai attacks... was that the Pakistani military once again focused on India for a period, and that continues to some degree. There's been, again, a diminution of the tension between the two countries over time, but it literally took their eye off the ball.” Also testifying before the committee, Admiral Eric Olson told the committee it was "very important to recognise the impact of India on the Pakistani psyche."

"It's important to recognise the capabilities of the Pakistani military were built to address the threat they felt from India -- that's primarily a conventional army focused to the east," Adm. Olson said, adding, "And in order to reorient that army to a more counterinsurgency army focused to the west, any reduction of the tensions on the Indian border would be very helpful." Even as the Obama administration prepares to ask Congress for as much as $3 billion over the next five years to train and equip Pakistan's military, some US lawmakers are questioning whether Pakistan can be a reliable partner in the US war in Afghanistan.

Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Sen. Carl Levin said he didn't have “confidence in Pakistan being a solution to the challenges in Afghanistan." The Michigan Democrat added: "I think they’re part of the problem, and I think they’ll continue to be."

The Senate, meanwhile, voted on Wednesday to boost aid to Pakistan. The $3 billion sought by the Obama administration is over and above a plan to give $7.5 billion in civilian aid to Pakistan. That request will be made in legislation sponsored by Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Republican Sen Richard Lugar of Indiana. Sources say the Kerry-Lugar bill will include strict conditions for doling out aid. Levin was skeptical that Pakistan “has the will or capability to secure their border.” His remarks came after a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee on the Obama administration's recent review of the AfPak policy.

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Manmohanspeak

We know that the great depression was as deep and prolonged as it was because countries resorted to protectionist responses, leading to downward spiral.

We must declare our resolve to increase the resources available with the IMF substantially…we should agree on a fresh allocation of SDRs.

Rise of protectionist sentiment is not surprising, given the downturn in economic activity and the rise of unemployment. However, it will be a test of leadership whether we persuade the public that we must not repeat past mistakes. ( PM at a dinner hosted by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown)

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Vignettes

  • Tax havens to be shamed & named; IMF to sell gold reserves; Wall Street, European stocks surge north.
  • Protesters in London were outnumbered by police personnel but managed to stage “noisy but calm”protests and demanded a public inquiry into the death of a demonstrator yesterday.
  • PM’s speech at the dinner hosted by Gordon Brown is being described as a rap on the knuckles of rich nations. “Open your markets, set your house in order, don’t bully lending bodies to give your guys the money…you dragged us into this mess and you got to get us out” is what he is said to have told them.
  • The group photograph of G20 leaders, journalists joked, looked like a Hindu Undivided Family (HUF). German Chancellor pursed her lips. The French President looked far from happy. The US President did not beam and the Indian Prime Minister did not smile.

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Blueprint

The key points of the declaration issued by G20 leaders indicate that India had its way and the summit accepted most of the suggestions given by the Indian PM

  • An end to banking secrecy
  • Action against tax havens
  • Improve global accounting standards
  • Resist protectionism & promote global trade
  • No new barriers to investment or trade
  • New rules on corporate pay
  • Sale of gold reserves to help poor countries
  • Financial Stability Board with India as member
  • New regulations for financial institutions, markets and instruments, including hedge funds

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