|HOME | NEWS | REPORT|
|July 21, 1998||
Talbott's 'courtesy visit' to 10, Janpath sparks speculation
Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi
United States Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott called on Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday. This sparked talk in political circles that the 30-minute meeting is a sign of the American leadership's inclination to keep the lines of communication open with ''India's prime minister-in-waiting''.
Observers interpreted that the meeting reflects the US government's perception of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led 18-party coalition government as being brittle.
Congress officials, however, sought to play down the meeting, labelling it as a courtesy call.
While Talbott was accompanied by US Ambassador to India Richard Celeste and Assistant Secretary for South Asian affairs at the state department Karl F Inderfurth, Sonia was assisted by Dr Manmohan Singh and K Natwar Singh, both senior Congress leaders.
Congress spokesperson Girija Vyas told reporters that Sonia and Talbott discussed a wide range of subjects of mutual interest and concern to both countries and the discussions were held in a cordial atmosphere.
The meeting assumes significance because senior officials in the Clinton administration in the recent past had wistfully gloated over the Congress regimes in India. The US government had also successfully persuaded the Congress when it was in power from conducting nuclear tests.
Then US ambassador to India Frank Wisner had confronted the Congress government of P V Narasimha Rao with tell-tale photographs captured by spy satellites showing that New Delhi was preparing for a nuclear test, a move that put paid to Rao's plans.
But any illusion that the Clinton administration might have that Sonia might be pliant was dispelled by Congress spokesman Ajit Jogi. He pointed out that his party will not compromise on India's traditional stance on nuclear and missile issues. Jogi said the Congress, if voted to power, will not append India's signature on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in its present form.
Jogi said the economic sanctions imposed by the US on India were unwarranted and should be withdrawn. ''India should not be looked through the prism of any other nation,'' he said.
India should not accept the hegemony of any other nation in South Asia, Jogi pointed out, in an oblique reference to the recent coming together of the US and China. The Congress also subscribed to the stand that there should be no third party role in Kashmir, he added.
INFOTECH | TRAVEL | LIFE/STYLE | FREEDOM | FEEDBACK