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November 23, 1999
Jaswant begins Japan visit today
External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh reached Tokyo tonight on a four-day official visit to restore a "broadbased relationship" with Japan that could pave the way for ending economic sanctions imposed by Tokyo last May after the Pokhran nuclear tests.
Singh will meet Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi and have detailed discussions with his counterpart, Yohei Kono, tomorrow.
During his stay, Jaswant will also be addressing leading Japanese industrialists and businessmen who do not want political factors affecting closer economic interaction with India.
Japan insists that India sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty before the economic measures against it are lifted. It has held up loans and grants totalling more than one billion dollars. It has also made no new commitments in the 1998-99 financial year or the current year.
Indian officials acknowledge that there is no prospect of Japan lifting economic sanctions immediately, but that there were various areas in which businesses there could expand their economic interests in India since the private sector is not covered by the economic measures against India.
Although Singh is expected to reiterate to Japanese leaders that the Indian government was trying to build a national consensus on CTBT and would not come in the way of the treaty coming into force, the fact that the US did not ratify the treaty had changed the picture.
Singh is likely to convey to his Japanese hosts that even if India signs it, the treaty cannot come into effect in the changed situation. Instead, he is expected to impress upon the Japanese the need to work together to eliminate nuclear weapons from the globe.
Singh, who will be assisted by Indian Ambassador to Japan Siddharth Singh and Joint Secretary (East Asia) T C A Rangachari, will discuss bilateral issues and international matter, including nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament.
The external affairs minister will also be meeting International Trade and Industry Minister Takashi Fukaya and Defence Minister Tsutomu Kawara, besides Yukihiko Ikeda, former foreign minister and chairman of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party General Council.
He will also be addressing the joint forum of the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Keidanren, which will be presided over by Kawamoto, Chairman of the Japan-India business Co-operation Committee.
Singh leaves for home on November 26.
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