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General's K-obsession irritates India

By Josy Joseph in New Delhi
March 15, 2004 14:00 IST
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American Secretary of State Colin Powell arrives in New Delhi this evening, more than two years after his last visit that defused a warlike situation between India and Pakistan in the wake of the December 13, 2001, attack on Parliament.

This time Powell has no pressing tension to defuse, but he is expected to underscore the commitment of the United States to fighting terrorism, to prod India and Pakistan to continue their peace talks, and to assure India that Pakistan's proliferation has been checked.

According to an external affairs ministry official, the Indian side will convey its unhappiness over General Pervez Musharraf harping on Kashmir and New Delhi's concerns over nuclear proliferation by Pakistan.

Powell is expected to arrive in New Delhi by a special aircraft at around 2100 IST. He will stay at the Maurya Sheraton, which has already been 'sanitised' by US security personnel.

The first engagement for the secretary of state tomorrow morning is a meeting with Leader of the Opposition Sonia Gandhi at her 10 Janpath residence. The official termed it a courtesy call.

At 1130 IST, Powell and External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha will begin their meeting at Hyderabad House, the former palace of the nizams of Hyderabad that now hosts India's formal meetings with foreign dignitaries.

The formal delegation-level talks will begin thereafter. The two delegations will review the progress in bilateral co-operation and work out future strategies for improving it.

At 1600 IST, Powell will meet National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra, after which he will call on Finance Minister Jaswant Singh, the former external affairs minister.

At 1830 IST, he will call on Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee at his official 7 Race Course Road residence.

Powell would leave New Delhi at 0830 IST on Wednesday to continue his tour of South Asia.

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Josy Joseph in New Delhi