Nov 21, 2009

New Delhi: Indian and American officials were in overdrive on Friday to put the sparkle back into prime minister Manmohan Singh's Washington visit after United States president Barack Obama queered the pitch by acquiescing to a role for China in South Asia.Indian hopes are focused on getting the US to agree to a formulation that will shut the door firmly on Beijing's bid to play policeman in the region or intervene as an interlocutor in our disputes with Pakistan, particularly Kashmir.

Frantic last-minute negotiations on this formulation are holding up finalisation of the joint statement to be issued at the end of the PM's visit.According to a senior government leader who did not wish to be named, the PM has been sounding out some of his colleagues on the political and diplomatic implications of the China-US joint statement that raised hackles here. The issue was also discussed at Thursday's meeting of the cabinet committee on security affairs, which usually clears agreements and the agenda for a major foreign visit by the prime minister.

One sentence in particular in the China-US joint statement has rankled as it calls for the US and China to "work together to promote peace, stability and development in that (South Asia) region".

The bracketing of India and Pakistan in a China-US joint statement after a gap of eleven years set off alarm bells in the strategic and diplomatic establishment. The government reacted sharply with a warning against third party intervention in Indo-Pak affairs.

Senior ministers are believed to have stressed that the "hands off" warning should find adequate reflection in the joint statement that will be put out by the PM and Obama in Washington next week.

Agency: DNA


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