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June 30, 2000
Consensus on CTBT by year-end: PM
Y Siva Sankar on board the PM's aircraft
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has said that the national political consensus on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty or CTBT would be achieved by 2000-end.
He said the winter session of Parliament would debate the issue threadbare. Officials hinted that the government would try to explain the advantages India would stand to derive by signing the CTBT.
It is learnt that in the days to come, the broad understanding reached by the European Union and India on the CTBT would be projected as the single biggest achievement of the first-ever Indo-EU summit.
"The EU backs India's stand on terrorism and has assured its support to New Delhi," Vajpayee said.
Vajpayee said he shared with the European leaders India's stand that terrorism remains a major threat to international peace and stability. They also lobbied support for its "right" -- as Commerce Minister Murasoli Maran put it -- to a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.
"There are indications that this issue will feature prominently in the coming Millennium Summit of the UNGA due to be held in September 2000. Our stand with regard to India's claim to a permanent seat in the expanded Security Council has been clear and consistent since 1984. We are happy to see that three is growing recognition of India's credentials as a permanent member of the UNSC. During our discussions in Italy and Portugal, we made it clear that we would not be in favour of any 'quick-fix' solution, or any attempt to place the developing countries at a disadvantage. As you know, Portugal has supported our candidature for permanent membership of the council," Vajpayee said.
On the raging Kashmir autonomy issue, Vajpayee said whatever measures that need to be taken as per the Constitution will be taken. Officials informally said the development only reinforces India's resilient and strong democracy where states feel free to express themselves. That Punjab's politicians were making similar demands for autonomy does not mean secessionist tendencies are on the rise, they opined.
Vajpayee hinted that when Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah met with him recently in New Delhi, the latter did not disclose that the state assembly would pass a resolution shortly in support of autonomy.
Asked if the resolution was passed deliberately when country's prime minister was away on tour, Vajpayee said, "I have not familiarised myself with all the details of the debate and decision of the Assembly."
Asked about his private talks with EU leaders, Vajpayee said, "I drew the attention of the European leaders to threats faced by India from cross-border terrorism and of the dangers posed by extremist religious groups which were spreading intolerance and violence within our region." He hoped that the summits would take place hereafter on a regular basis and be successful as the first one.
He said an agreement was reached to enhance cooperation through improved trade and investment. The EU has agreed to encourage larger flows of foreign direct investment or FDI, particularly in the infrastructure sector.
Vajpayee said he has invited the president and prime minister of Portugal to visit India and the invitations have been accepted.
On divestment, he censured Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee for issuing statements that are not very accurate. Banerjee had said that she and her party Trinamool Congress were not "consulted" while divestment decisions on public sector enterprises were taken. However, Vajpayee clarified Banerjee was indeed a party to the decisions taken.
On his vision of removing "every tear from every eye" (in the context of poverty), Vajpayee agreed that precious little has been done to eradicate poverty since 1960 when similar slogans were made. "The talk about poverty eradication will remain as long as poverty remains," he said.
Maran who complemented Vajpayee at the conference, said the Indo-EU summit has identified what are called implementation issues and sought to accord priority to them.
Foreign Secretary Lalit Mansingh said Vajpayee briefed Portugal's top leaders on India's commitment to global peace. Portugal recounted its experience of transition from dictatorship to democracy, he said.
Portugal has also informed India that it will seek to improve relations with Indonesia on the East Timor issue. The Indonesian president has been invited to Portugal for talks. The Indo-Portuguese bilateral talks also focused on the prevailing situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan. India and Portugal will work jointly to counter drug trafficking and work towards establishing joint studies at the Indian Institute of Oceanography in Goa, he said.
"The issue of some Goans' request for dual citizenship of India and Portugal was not discussed," Mansingh told this correspondent. "On the non-trade tariff barriers on textiles, we are fighting it out. On the human rights fronts, we are not defensive nor apologetic. We have in place an efficient apparatus to deal with human rights violations. There was no expression of concern by Portugal on the human rights issue."
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