Britain is third-rate power says PM
''Britain is a third-rate power nursing illusions of grandeur of its colonial past. It created Kashmir when it divided India. Now it wants to give us a solution.''
That is Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral, hours before Queen Elizabeth began her state visit to India on Sunday.
Gujral reportedly made the vitriolic attack during his conversation with Egyptian intellectuals in Cairo on Saturday evening. The prime minister was asked why India was unable to resolve the Kashmir crisis, and why New Delhi was against a third country's mediation.
Explaining the situation in Kashmir, Gujral recounted how democratic governance could be restored in the state despite massive infiltration of militants from across the border. The intellectuals were shocked about the presence of non-Kashmiri militants in the valley, who underwent training abroad.
Gujral returned to Delhi on Sunday morning, when senior officials disclosed what prompted the prime minister into such an undiplomatic diatribe.
The premier was upset with British ministers and officials's uncalled for remarks on Kashmir, they said, adding, ''Even the queen was dragged into this, and she said that she was ready to use her good offices to help resolve divergent positions. The prime minister was exasperated.''
Reports said New Delhi is furious with the tone of some speeches at the Labour Party's recent annual conference. ''We
ignored the earlier statements of (British Deputy Foreign Secretary) Derek Fatchett, believing him to be new to the job,'' said a senior official. ''But he has gone and repeated them at the conference. Then, (British Foreign Secretary) Robin Cook goes and again offers meditation, when he knows our position on the subject. How long are we expected to take all this lying down? In effect, the Labour Party leaders are helping Pakistan which wants to internationalise the Kashmir issue in violation of the Shimla agreement. This is totally unacceptable.''
Rubbing salt on New Delhi's wounds were the British high commissioner's views in New Delhi. He dismissed the demands of some Indian leaders for an apology for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre as ''preposterous''.
''Where was the need for such insulting outbursts when India did not officially seek an apology?'' said the source.
At Monday's meeting between Gujral and Cook, however, the two leaders avoided discussing the Kashmir issue.
Cook reportedly conveyed to Gujral his country's support for India's
membership of the Asea-Europe meeting.
Briefing the media on the meeting, an external affairs ministry spokesman said Britain's support was important and ''we are appreciative of that''.
Expressing support for the United Nations Security Council expansion, the British foreign secretary said it should ''reflect the
world as it is now and not as it was in 1945.''
Meanwhile, President K R Narayanan said India, as one of the world's largest markets and as an emerging economic power, was a suitable and reliable partner for Britain.
Speaking at a banquet hosted by him in the queen's honour on Monday, Narayanan said, ''What gives Indo-British relations inherent vitality and larger significance are the values of freedom, democracy, secularism and social justice that we share.''
Earlier, the queen was given a ceremonial welcome at Rashtrapati Bhavan. The queen, accompanied by the duke of Edinburgh, arrived in New Delhi on Sunday night to a red carpet welcome.
In another development, a procession was taken out in Amristsar against the Queen's visit to Amritsar, which begins on Tuesday. Small groups of Naxalites also held demonstrations in various localities
of the city.
Another demonstration is planned for Tuesday.
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