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PM calls for consensus on Iraq

Tanmaya Kumar Nanda in New York | September 23, 2003 05:46 IST

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee Monday called for global cooperation in the rebuilding process in Iraq, while delivering the inaugural address at the prestigious Asia Society in New York as part of the Citigroup series on Distinguished Asian Leaders.

"In Iraq, we have to develop an international consensus, which accelerates the political, economic and security transformation in that country," Vajpayee said.

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The PM mentioned Afghanistan where, he said, it was necessary "to complete the work commenced by the Bonn process, and (to) help its government to completely wipe out the remnants of the Taliban."

He said the future of Iraq and Afghanistan would have far-reaching implications for the region, as well as for the rest of the world.

Iraq and Afghanistan were two immediate test cases of international efforts to build a world order based on cooperation and partnership, he said.

Focusing at length on India-US relations, Vajpayee sought to assuage US concerns of his government's ability to carry other political parties with it, on the question of closer ties between the two countries.

There was, he said, "commitment to building this relationship across the political spectrum."

The subtext here was that one of the key factors behind India's decision not to send troops to Iraq was opposition by other political parties; Vajpayee sent out the message that on the broader question of strengthening Indo-US ties, there was consensus across the Indian political spectrum.

There may be differences on issues and disagreements on approaches, but conflicts and confrontations do not overshadow the relations among the great and emerging powers, he said.

Vajpayee enumerated a four-pronged approach to counter global terrorism:

A concert of democracies (acting) in cohesion; a threat against one should be seen as a threat against all.

Consistency of approach in demanding from all countries the same high standards in combating terrorism.

Continuity of resolve and clarity of purpose. We should not be drawn into the grey zone of conflicting policy objectives, which condone ambiguous positions on terrorism.

Expand the constituency of democracy by promoting the ideals of freedom, democracy rule of law and tolerance that are our defining strengths.

Vajpayee pointed out that the post-Cold War era had seen a significant proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems, plus the added threat that they could fall into the hands of terrorists.

"The existing regimes for non-proliferation rigorously audit the performance of responsible states, but do not touch the proliferaters. An honest reappraisal is required," he said. It was a finger pointed at Pakistan by no means the only allusion the PM made in his speech.

Still on the Cold War theme, the PM pointed out that where it had been expected that the end of the face-off would bring with it an era of enduring security and stability, the reverse had turned out to be the case.

"This has not happened. Instead, new political problems and security challenges have been thrust upon us," Vajpayee told his audience.

"Many newly independent countries still suffer from weak political institutions, economic stagnation and a deficit of democracy and modernity. This threatens the security of their people and that of their neighbors."

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