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September 6, 2000
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PM's visit to boost Indo-US economic ties

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee leaves on a politically-significant visit to the US, on Wednesday night. The visit is expected to impart greater dynamism to bilateral economic ties with special focus on infrastructure development, information technology and energy sectors.

New Delhi's concerns over Pakistan-sponsored cross-border terrorism, nuclear issues and UN reforms are likely to figure high on the agenda during Vajpayee's meeting with US President Bill Clinton on September 15 in Washington.

Vajpayee, who will be in the US for a fortnight, will have wide-ranging discussions with Clinton first along with some aides and later at delegation level. Union ministers Jaswant Singh, Yashwant Sinha and Murasoli Maran will assist him. The discussions would cover bilateral, regional and international issues.

Notwithstanding his knee problem, Vajpayee has given his nod to a hectic schedule during his long visit except for three days from September 10 when nothing has been lined up as of now. During this period, Vajpayee was earlier slated to visit San Francisco. This segment was dropped from his programme on doctor's advice.

Vajpayee will keep his date with the US business community when he attends the US-India business summit organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry in New York with focus on infrastructure, capital market and financial resources.

Washington is attaching considerable significance to the return visit by Vajpayee despite the American leaders being in the midst of presidential elections.

The visit was taking place at the "insistence" of the US, reflecting the "great importance" Washington attached to Indo-US ties, External Affairs minister Jaswant Singh said in a recent television interview.

Vajpayee's visit would set in motion a certain degree of predictability and stability in Indo-US relations marked by frequent exchanges of high-level visits including the tour of Clinton to India in March this year, Singh said.

The prime minister's programme, which was curtailed by two days, underwent further changes with the departure being advanced by a few hours to enable him reach New York on Thursday afternoon. After a short rest, he would address a dinner meeting organised by the Asian Society.

Next day, Vajpayee, leading a high-power Indian delegation, would address the United Nations Millennium summit in New York.

Vajpayee is the 33rd speaker and Doordarshan would telecast his speech live. In the afternoon, he would have bilateral meetings with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Nepalese Premier Girija Prasad Koirala.

He would sign the Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, 1999, a French initiative supported by India. The Union Cabinet had recently decided to sign and ratify it.

The prime minister would attend a function of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and an Ayurvedic conference on September nine. He would release two books on the occasion.

In the evening, he would address a public meeting organised by the Indo-American Association at Staten Island, about 45 minutes drive from New York. He would leave for Washington on September 13.

On September 14, Vajpayee would be ceremonially received at Capitol Hill. After a brief meeting with the Speaker of the House, he would address the joint meeting of the US Congress and later shake hands with Congressmen and Senators.

The prime minister would have a luncheon meeting with members of the US Congress who form the India Caucus. The India Caucus has an impressive membership of 110. He would later have a meeting with US think-tanks.

On September 15, Vajpayee would be accorded a ceremonial reception at the White House to be followed by talks with Clinton and delegation level deliberations.

On the Jammu and Kashmir issue, Singh said India's concerns on Pakistan-sponsored cross-border terrorism would be conveyed to Washington during the visit.

On September 16, Vajpayee would participate in the ceremony for the dedication of the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial, which would include unveiling the statue of Mahatma Gandhi, and attend a reception to be hosted by the Indian Ambassador Naresh Chandra and interact with the Indo-American community.

After attending a banquet hosted in his honour by Clinton and First Lady Hillary, Vajpayee will leave for Frankfurt for an overnight halt before emplaning for home.

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