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India swims with Germany on Iraq

New Delhi, March 3: India is of the view that the United Nations’ weapons inspectors should be given more time to resolve the Iraqi crisis peacefully.

This was conveyed to visiting German President Johannes Rau during a meeting he had with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee this afternoon.

The Indian position is in variance with that of the US and closer to that of Germany and France, which have also been arguing in favour of giving more time to the inspectors to find a peaceful solution to the Iraq crisis. The US, on the other hand, has been stressing the need to act now, arguing that President Saddam Hussien has been given “enough time” to disarm voluntarily.

The difference with the US notwithstanding, India and Germany also stressed on the need for “eliminating Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction” and urged Baghdad to comply “strictly” with the UN Security Council resolution.

Rau is the first German President to visit India in 13 years. Under the German political hierarchy the President is a figurehead and most of powers lie with the Chancellor. However, Rau’s visit indicates Delhi’s growing importance in Berlin.

The German President held talks with the Indian leadership and also addressed a business meeting this afternoon organised jointly by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and the Confederation of Indian Industry, where he identified India as an attractive destination for German investment and stressed the need for strengthening economic ties between the two sides.

At Rau’s meeting with Vajpayee, the two sides discussed a number of important bilateral, regional and international issues, including Indo-Pak relations. The focus of the talks, however, was the fast developing situation in Iraq.

The Indian leadership pointed out that there were diverging views on how to handle the Iraqi crisis. While some felt that Baghdad has been given enough time to disarm, there is a strong view advocating a more patient engagement with Iraq.

It was conveyed to the visiting German President that Delhi was also in favour of giving more time to UN arms inspectors to find a peaceful solution.

“All eyes are at present watching the situation in Iraq with considerable concern. India and Germany share the view that everything must be tried to fully implement the relevant Security Council resolutions, using peaceful, political means,” Rau told the captains of Indian business. “Only in this way the economic and political stability of the region can be maintained,” he said.

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