Today's Paper

India is neither client state nor supplicant, says Prime Minister Manmohan Singh

N. Ram

ON BOARD AIR INDIA ONE: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh revealed that he went to the G8 Summit at Gleneagles with "no expectations'' and that he didn't expect "they would listen to us.'' But Presidents George Bush and Jacques Chirac endorsed what he said on climate change. "I said the whole world faces a single environment. We all have an obligation to work to safeguard the essential life support systems of our planet. But before you lay down conditionalities or standards, you must take into account the country's capacities and the country's aspirations. Certainly, the environment cannot be protected by perpetuating the poverty of developing nations. That is the balance.''

Asked about Prime Minister Blair's announcement that there would be further negotiations on climate change in London in November and the possibility of India and China being invited, Dr. Singh responded bluntly: "We have said these are not negotiating forums. They are all for dialogue. But we feel the proper framework for negotiation is the U.N. Convention on climate change or the Kyoto Protocol. In my intervention, I made it quite clear that we cannot allow these forums, limited forums, to take upon themselves to arbitrate the fate of the world.''

Agenda of U.S. visit

What would be the agenda of his visit to the United States between July 17 and 20? "Well, let me say,'' the Prime Minister answered, "I am not going with any demands. I want to explain to the U.S. Government, to the U.S. Congress what our aspirations are. The bulk of resources for India's development has always been mobilised locally. We will always be content. We don't want to be internationally a supplicant!''

On the issue of eliminating agricultural export subsidies, he said India's concerns were "somewhat different from many other agricultural exporting countries.'' While liberalising agriculture trade for the benefit of other developing countries, the country needed to safeguard food security and its ability to "protect and safeguard the interests of small and marginal farmers.''

Asked about the Iranian gas pipeline and U.S. opposition to it, Dr. Singh did not mince words: "This is an affair between Iran and us and Pakistan. If the three countries agree, that should be the end of the matter ... We are not a client state!''

Differences with Left

To a question about differences with the Left on issues ranging from disinvestment to India's relations with the United States and specifically what he expected from his meeting with Left leaders on Sunday, the Prime Minister expressed confidence "we will resolve all the issues.'' He characterised the defence agreement concluded recently with the U. S. as "an innocuous framework agreement updating the 1994 framework agreement,'' adding it "does not mean any surrender of our sovereignty.''

Asked about l'affaire Kanishka and its 20th anniversary, he observed: "That those who perpetrated those crimes have still not been brought to book is a sad commentary. I think we should take it up [with Canada].''

The Prime Minister gave nothing away on the question of a possible Cabinet reshuffle.

He was interacting with journalists in an impromptu session on board the special flight, Air India One, bringing him and his delegation back home from London.

Recommended for you