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September 17, 2000
Trip to US 'rewarding:' PM
Amberish K Diwanji in Washington DC
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee said on Saturday, that his visit to the United States was full and rewarding, and which had carried forward India-US relations in the most satisfactory manner and due to which, India was being repositioned in global and regional affairs.
The remarks were made in a statement issued to the media after he attended his penultimate function in Washington DC. On Sunday, his last official function is attending the state banquet being hosted in his honour by First Lady Hillary Clinton, immediately after which the prime minister flies back home.
The prime minister was to have addressed a press conference after he attended a programme for Indian community members, but it was cancelled.
Vajpayee said India is being recognised as a responsible and stabilising force in Asia, and a nation which will grow in the coming decades. India's concerns over South Asia, he added, are also gaining increasing acceptance in the US.
At the United Nations and in bilateral talks with the US, he said he had conveyed India's readiness to accept broader responsibilities in coming decades and projected India's thinking on the growing threat of terrorism.
Vajpayee said he was happy to see the growing momentum and deepening relations between the two greatest democracies in the world, and was confident this relationship would grown in the coming years, imbued with new content, greater understanding and enhanced co-operation.
He said he had briefed the US leaders about India's priorities, which included infrastructure development, energy, finances, and information technology. While the economic reforms will continue, he said the government would shoulder the responsibility of the weaker sections of society.
In another display of wit and wisdom, the prime minister addressed yet another gathering of Indian Americans in Washington. Once more he spoke extempore in Hindi, giving a speech that was laced with humour and modesty, outlining the achievements of India, Indians, and his government.
As has been the case, when speaking in Hindi, the prime minister's speeches are well received, and he adroitly avoided any controversy. When someone in the audience shouted "Speak in English," he replied he preferred to speak in Hindi because he was more comfortable in it. "I spoke in Hindi at the UN," he told the audience.
The prime minister spoke for about 45 minutes, much longer than the scheduled time, but the audience appreciated his speech and gleefully burst into laughter and applause every time he cracked a joke.
He recalled how his government had been felled by just one vote in April 1999. "One vote is very important. Hence, when campaigning, I would ask the voters for one vote, and the Opposition thought if he wants just one vote, let him have it. And by collecting such one votes, we won!"
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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