India's bid for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council and for non-permanent membership on the Council in 2011-12 will be a crucial component of Vice-President Hamid Ansari's six-day tour to the Czech Republic and Croatia. Elections for the non-permanent seat are due later this year.

Encouraged by the “break in the impasse'' and an “incremental progress'' in the matter, India will raise this issue with the leadership of both the countries, Vice-President Hamid Ansari told journalists on board the special aircraft.

“There is a process that is on in New York. There has been incremental progress. Until some time back there was total impasse. Then as a result of interested countries like ourselves, Brazil, Japan, and Germany, some progress has been made in negotiating strategies. So now work is going on in New York to work on a document that will form the basis of further consultation on how to go about the reform of this institution [United Nations].''

Speaking to the media, he said: “The basic purpose of this trip is to visit old friends in new circumstances, revive ties, and the solid base of cooperation in the economic and energy sectors. This visit is important to give a political message — India is a big country and it values its friends.''

To a question on how he viewed the relationship with Prague and Zagreb in five years, he said: “Our relations with all countries in Europe will be good —from good to very good. The Czech Republic is already a member of the European Union. Croatia has some reservations. It has not joined the EU yet. We would look at five years down the line to be an expanded or more expanded EU. Therefore, engagement with the member countries of the EU would be in our interest.''

Turning to issues at home, Mr. Ansari reiterated his view that anything in which public money was going out of the consolidated funds of the government should be within the realm of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India. “If it is not actually so, it is probably a lacuna. But this is something on which the government and parliament would have to take a view.''

Elaborating, he said, the manner in which public funds are being channelled for public purposes is changing. It is not the same as when the Constitution was adopted. “So with changing direction, the public, through its representatives in Parliament, has a right to know, whether it is being spent as per the mandate or not. So it is an evolving approach.''

On public funds being lost when Parliament does not have enough sittings or question hour is postponed frequently, Mr. Ansari as the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha said the issue needs political consensus [that has not come so far]. “I have spoken to Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, and she agrees. We have to think how we can minimise the loss of time so that we can maximise the time taken for parliamentary agenda.''

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