PM not to meet Musharraf

WASHINGTON, SEPT. 2. At a time when there is some uncertainty over the nature and scope of the Prime Minister, Mr. A. B. Vajpayee's visit to the United States, the Prime Minister's programme in Washington has been ``expanded'' to enable him interact with those he was to have met on the West Coast.

Combining the third round of bilateral Foreign Office talks with the firming up of the agenda of the coming visit, the Foreign Secretary, Mr. Lalit Mansingh, said Mr. Vajpayee would now have some rest after a hectic programme in New York before arriving in Washington for the official leg of the trip beginning on September 14.

With doubts about his health persisting and to an extent overshadowing the trip, the Prime Minister will now arrive in New York in the afternoon of September 7 and by one account will address the Asia Society that evening. With several of the bilaterals now either cancelled or in the process of being re- worked, he will address the United Nations on September 8, attend some community functions and is expected to be in New York till September 13.

The Foreign Secretary, who is here for discussions with senior officials of the Clinton administration on bilateral and regional issues, stressed that there would be no meeting in New York between Mr. Vajpayee and the Pakistani military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf. He also said there was no role for Islamabad in the discussions on Kashmir that involved ``our authorities and our people in Kashmir''. He also referred to the Prime Minister's remark of wanting a dialogue with Pakistan provided the right atmosphere was created.

The U.S., according to him, pledged the full support of the Group of Eight to India's proposal for an international convention on terrorism at the United Nations level and that Washington and New Delhi agreed to take the cooperation on terrorism to another level by including narcotics among the issues. The two sides expressed concern over the growth of the narcotics trade in South Asia, especially Afghanistan. The possibility of renewing the Fulbright programme was also discussed.

Mr. Mansingh said the issue of sanctions did not come up during the talks and that the Clinton administration was well aware of where India stood on the issue. ``We consider them (sanctions) to be counter-productive and ineffective but we have not appealed to them to remove them.'' Despite the punitive measures there was extensive cooperation between the two countries, especially in science and technology, he added.

The Foreign Secretary reviewed the progress in bilateral relations following the U.S. President, Mr. Bill Clinton's visit to India in March and noted that Mr. Vajpayee's visit would be an important follow-up on the vision statement and the dialogue architecture. The dialogue architecture has been implemented in full with the President and the Prime Minister in constant touch and some of Mr. Vajpayee's Cabinet colleagues interacting with their counterparts in the U.S.

A Joint Statement on the outcome of the discussions would be issued at the end of Mr. Vajpayee's visit to Washington with a separate statement on cooperation on Information Technology and bio-technology also expected.

Vajpayee to halt in Frankfurt

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, SEPT. 2. Yet another, though minor, change has been made in the Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee's travel plans. On his way back home from Washington, Mr. Vajpayee will now break journey at Frankfurt, Germany, instead of the earlier planned stop-over in Amsterdam.

It is explained that the change became advisable in view of the Prime Minister's need for total rest. In the original schedule of a stop over in Amsterdam, the Dutch authorities were reported to be keen on extending all the courtesies - including ceremonial welcome, and a possible banquet - to the Prime Minister; that would have meant Mr. Vajpayee again having to endure strain on his knees. His doctors and advisers thought the strain on the prime ministerial knees was not worth the effort. On the other hand, the stop-over in Frankfurt has its advantages, over any European capital city. At Frankfurt, the Indian delegation would hardly be making any demands on the German hospitality, and Mr. Vajpayee would be entirely on his own and can spend the time as he likes. He will also be able to time his arrival back in the capital at a reasonably decent hour.

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