|HOME | NEWS | THE VAJPAYEE VISIT | REPORT|
September 14, 2000
Clintons, Gores take time off from campaign to host PM
Amberish K Diwanji in Washington DC
After six days in New York, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee begins his four day visit to Washington DC, a journey being seen in the United States capital as a chance to institutionalise Indo-US relations and give them continuity.
The prime minister, who arrived in Washington DC on Wednesday, officially begins his visit the following day with a much anticipated address to the joint session of the US Congress. Given that the Congress is dominated by the Republicans, the visit is seen as starting of on a bipartisan note, significant since the US presidential election is just a few weeks away.
Vajpayee's visit comes six months after US President William Jefferson Clinton visited India, and is the first time that two summit-level meetings between the two countries have been held within a year.
Senior US state department officials and Indian external ministry officials admit there has been little progress on key disputes in the past six months. External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh has held 10 rounds of talks with US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott following India's nuclear tests in May 1998.
The talks centre on India capping its nuclear weapons programme, signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and the lifting of economic sanctions imposed by the US after the nuclear tests.
On these issues, both sides say Indo-US relations have today matured sufficiently to live with these differences.
Instead, both sides are keen to focus on the positive aspects of Indo-US relations rather than harp on the negative aspects that continue to bedevil bilateral ties.
A highly-placed state department official told Indian mediapersons that the terms of Indo-US relations have undergone a sea change in recent years. "There is no going back on the road of co-operation between the US and India. The US believes that India is a strong country and will emerge even stronger in the coming years," the official declared.
On the difficult question of US sanctions, the official pointed out that several sanctions were lifted during the Clinton visit, and that the US hopes to have all sanctions removed soon.
However, the official warned that the US will only consider lifting all the sanctions if India shows sufficient progress on key issues such as nuclear non-proliferation and signing the CTBT.
The state department official added that both the US president and First Lady Hillary Clinton, and Vice-President Al Gore and Tipper Gore have taken time off campaigning to host Vajpayee.
During his visit, the prime minister will address business leaders to further boost economic ties that already play a major role in the Indo-US association. The US is India's largest trading partner and the largest investor in India (though as a bloc, the European Union is ahead of the US), and Washington clearly seeks to expand on the trade and investment links. For India, American investment is an important aspect to help its economic reforms process.
Strategically, New Delhi is clearly pleased at wooing the US away from Pakistan and making terrorism and support to terrorism a major global issue. That the spectre of Islamic fundamentalism haunts both India and the US, though both have differing perceptions of what needs to be done and which do not always match. But New Delhi is clearly happy to have the US on its side against Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism. Both countries are already working on strategies to counter terrorism.
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!
ASTROLOGY | NEWSLINKS | BOOK SHOP | MUSIC SHOP | GIFT SHOP | HOTEL BOOKINGS
AIR/RAIL | WEDDING | ROMANCE | WEATHER | WOMEN | E-CARDS | EDUCATION
HOMEPAGES | FREE MESSENGER | FREE EMAIL | CONTESTS | FEEDBACK