Albright's visit short but 'substantive"

19th November 1997
Hindustan Times

New Delhi: The first US Secretary of State to visit India in 14 years, Ms. Madeleine Albright, managed to squeeze in a few hours for the ongoing strategic dialogue with India today before she hurried back into international diplomacy over Iraq.

The Indian government could, however, derive genuine satisfaction from the fact that in spite of her extremely heavy schedule for over a week when she had been hopping from one capital to another, virtually without rest, she still kept her engagements in New Delhi.

In an obvious attempt to pre-empt any negative impression about the visit, Foreign Secretary K Raghunath claimed this evening that the visit was very "substantive", and that it would be wrong to describe it as downgraded. "The important point is that the programme was maintained," he added. "We have managed to have everything achieved. In no way was it a lowering of priority."

For a little over two hours this afternoon, Ms. Albright and Prime Minister I K Gujral held "broad-based" discussions on bilateral, regional and international issues as part of the "strategic dialogue" launched at the Gujral-Clinton meeting in New York on September 22.

Foreign Secretary Raghunath, briefing mediapersons after Ms. Albright left for Geneva, described the talks as having "opened a new chapter in Indo-US relations with new areas to be taken up for dialogue". But it was obvious that the short duration of dialogue could only touch on the frequently reiterated positions on various issues by both sides.

Thus apparently no headway was made in respect of the most contentious issues like non-proliferation and United Nations reforms and restructuring (including the issue of the the Security Council expansion with India claiming a permanent seat for itself on merit), with both sides reiterating the off-repeated positions.

Despite India's repeated harping on the "need to take follow-up action in the wake of banning the Harkat-ul-Ansar," it was obvious today that Washington did not commit itself to any such action.

New Delhi has been demanding that Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front and several other terrorist organisations should be brought under the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death penalty Act, 1996.

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