New Delhi, Jan. 22: Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee has described it as a “great occasion” and “important milestone” but the International Parliamentary Conference is not a big enough occasion for the Big Brother.
Congressional representatives from the US were conspicuous by their absence at the three-day meet, which began here today.
The US is among the 138 countries invited for the meet to mark the Golden Jubilee of the Indian Parliament. Invitations were sent to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the Senate Chairman. They have excused themselves, citing “pressing engagements”, and not bothered to depute Congressmen or Senators to attend the meet.
This morning, the Israelis, too, joined the Americans on the absentee list. The Lok Sabha Speaker’s office is believed to have received a regret letter from Tel Aviv.
The American and Israeli move to stay away has “disappointed” India, which has been making a conscious efforts to forge strong ties with the two countries.
Questions have been raised whether the US stayed away because Iraq is among the 85 participating countries and whether Israel skipped the meet because Palestine is attending.
Iraq is being represented by Sadoon Hammadi, Speaker of the National Assembly, and Rashid Salloh, an Assembly member. As’ad Abdelrahman, member of the Palestine National Council, arrived here two days ago.
Among the neighbours, Pakistan was not invited. Nepal, which does not have a democratic dispensation at present, is being represented by members of the dissolved Pratinidhi Sabha. The Speaker, Taranath Ranabhat, is scheduled join Radheysham Adhikary, a member of the dissolved House, tomorrow.
Parliamentary representatives from Saarc nations Bangladesh, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives are attending. The Bangladeshi delegation is headed by deputy Speaker Akhter Hamid Siddiqui. Myanmar, however, is not invited.
China is taking full advantage of the opportunity to familiarise itself with India. The Chinese National People’s Congress has sent the largest delegation for the meet. The 10-member delegation is headed by Sheng Huaren, chairman of the Sino-Indian Friendship Group of the NPC and a member of the NPC Standing Committee. The delegation has half-a-dozen experts on India-China relations.
Representatives from Japan, Russia, Central Asian republics, Southeast Asian countries, Europe, Latin America, Africa and countries with large Indian diaspora like Fiji and Trinidad and Tobago are among the participants.