'India will not insist on Chaudhry's reinstatement'

CHENNAI, JULY 20. While calling for the restoration of democracy in Fiji, India will not insist on the immediate reinstatement of the ousted Fijian Prime Minister, Mr. Mahendra Chaudhry. Disclosing this here today, the Union Minister of State for External Affairs, Mr. Ajit Kumar Panja, said whether or not Mr. Chaudhry, an ethnic Indian, would resume office depended on the democratic choice of the people of Fiji.

India was in constant touch with Australia and New Zealand, the two powers close to Fiji, and working on finding ways to resolve the crisis. India was also taking steps to ensure the protection of ethnic Indians in Fiji.

Denying that India was playing only a ``passive role,'' Mr. Panja said the first priority of the Government had been to avoid bloodshed and ensure the safe release of hostages. The policy was to avoid confrontation and create a consensus in Fiji. India wanted the restoration of democracy, but recognised that it would involve a long process. On the problem of ethnic Indians fleeing Fiji, he said efforts would have to be taken to allay their apprehensions.

Refuting the charge that the Indian policy in Sri Lanka lacked direction, he reiterated that the Government was against any sort of military intervention. However, India was willing to mediate if the two sides wanted it to do so. ``India is not shirking its responsibility,'' he said. The Minister ruled out bilateral talks with the Pakistani Chief Executive, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, saying India would talk only to an elected Government. Blaming Gen. Musharraf for the Kargil war, he said India could not talk to someone who had ``blood on his hands.''