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September 7, 2000
Kashmir not an international issue: Jaswant
Savera R Someshwar in New York
General Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, it seemed on Wednesday, had only one issue on his agenda - to bring to centrestage the dispute raging over Kashmir between India and Pakistan.
On Thursday, India's Minister for External Affairs Jaswant Singh had just one wry comment about the Pakistan chief executive's effort in that direction. "About 60 to 63 nations have, so far addressed the UN Millennium Summit. Of these, only two - including Pakistan - have mentioned Kashmir. This reaction, or lack of interest, from the international body, more than indicative of the fact that Kashmir is not an international issue. It is a bilateral one."
Singh was participating in an informal press conference at the Waldorf Astoria hotel at about the same time that Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was touching down at the John F Kennedy international airport in New York.
The prime minister, Singh said, will address the UN on September 8. He will speak in Hindi, just as he had at his spectacular and much-remembered address to the UN in 1977.
Incidentally, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who spoke on September 6, addressed the UN in Bengali.
Singh, who will represent the nation at the Commonwealth Ministerial Action group meeting, told a group of select journalists that India would focus attention on two key issues: reform with the United Nations and the growing menace of terrorism the world over.
The minister addresses the Round Table on Dialogue Among Civilisations, a move initiated by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to promote understanding among different civilisations, on Thursday afternoon. India, which has been a keen supporter of the project, is expected to focus on the real needs of the peoples of the world - gainful employment and minimum standards of nutrition, dwelling health and education. India will also strongly stress on the importance of the nuclear weapon free world. The Round Table is at present headed by Iranian President Mohammad Ali Khatami.
Singh, in his speech, will focus on making the UN into a vehicle for delivering on human aspirations and strengthening it in every way possible.
Later in the evening, Singh is scheduled to visit NASDAQ, before moving on to the dinner hosted by the Asia Society. Indian officials insist on pointing out that despite the presence of Asian leaders in New York, the honour of addressing the prestigious Asia Society has fallen on the Indian prime minister.
Singh also represented India at the Commonwealth meet, which is traditionally held before the UN summit each year. One of the speakers at the meet was the deposed prime minister of Fiji, Mahendra Chaudhary. The Fiji leader is also scheduled to address the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group.
rediff.com has assigned Associate Editors Amberish K Diwanji and Savera R Someshwar to cover Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's visit to the United States. Don't forget to log into rediff.com for news of this historic visit as it happens!
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