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Hooked on India... .the place to be in

He is fascinated by India and believes ours is the land to be in as the years roll by. An unabashed admirer of the West, he covered the Vietnam War and believes that it holds valid lessons for the US, now contemplating military action against Iraq. SANJEEV CHOUDHARY speaks to Alexie Vassilliev, a prolific author in New Delhi this past week...

INDIA'S RICH cultural heritage has always attracted the best minds from across the world with Alexei Vassilliev, an eminent Russian scholar being no exception. Possessing enviable credentials - he has authored more than 30 books on the problems of Asia and Africa besides being the editor of the monthly journal `Asia and Africa Today', he was in New Delhi this past week to deliver a series of guest lectures.

Vassilliev reckons that India will soon emerge as a world power. The country is making substantial progress in that direction and the day is not far when India will be counted among the best of the world. He doesn't see the pluralistic nature of Indian society as a hindrance to the path of the nation's progress. On the contrary he believes that the ethnic diversity and pluralistic nature of Indian body politic is, in fact its hidden strength. This diversity has helped India successfully resolve some of its seemingly intractable problems.

This prolific author is quite optimistic about the resolution of the Kashmir problem as he reckons that India's historical tradition of tolerance and peaceful co-existence and adjustment will ultimately help in resolving the issue. The fact that India since the 1990s has embarked on a policy of economic reform and structural change is definitely going to boost India's strength. As Vassilliev sees it, it is now one of the fastest growing economies in the world and if India keeps the momentum going it will help solve myriad social and economic problems. It will provide the economic and political space for the Kashmiris to grow and develop within India.

Vassilliev is quite bullish on India's economic reform programme. Comparing with Africa, he feels that the African leaders have been found wanting. "They have not initiated the right policies and programmes to guide their country towards prosperity. Despite the African countries being blessed with abundant natural resources the future of Africa seems bleak. The continent has failed to harness its resources. Corruption is endemic, official economy is dwarfed by the unofficial economy."

Of course these problems are also found in India. But these problems are not only due to the internal policies of the Third World countries. He pins the blame on the developed countries also who have erected substantial trade and non-trade barrier that deliberately restricts their market to the Third world goods.

It is no secret that after the September 11 attack on the Twin Towers, terrorism has occupied the centre-stage in the world arena. India has also been a victim of terrorism. Vassilliev believes that terrorism in any form must be crushed. "Terrorists are criminals and they do not represent any religion or nationality," he says. On Iraq issue, Vassilliev believes that a peaceful solution must be found. "War is not a solution. No country in the world should have the right to unilaterally go to war against the provisions of the UN Charter," he avers.

He believes that the U.S. should base its action on the resolution passed by the United Nation Security Council. The policy of aggression or using force can be repeated in case of many countries and other countries can also apply the same tactics. Reminding the U S of the consequence of the Vietnam war, where he himself worked as a reporter, he insists that the US should work with the unanimous voice of international community. The US must seek the authorisation of the UN Security Council before it contemplates any action against Iraq.

A self-confessed admirer of Western culture and civilisation, Vassilliev cannot hide his love and respect for Indian civilisation which he finds "unique". The richness and diversity of the Indian culture fascinates him. "A country that can teach the world how to coexist, how to live in peace and coexist even in face of extreme diversity," as he puts it.

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