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Since 1st March, 1999
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Anti-war Chirac calls Atal to rich club
- French President invites Prime Minister to G8 meeting next month

Washington, May 15: After taking on President George W. Bush on Iraq and blocking the UN Security Council’s authorisation for the war, French President Jacques Chirac is expanding his horizons. And India has been invited to be part of it.

In recognition of India’s emerging global status, Chirac has invited Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to be part of the G8 summit of the world’s richest nations to be held in Evian-les-Bains, France, from June 1 to 3.

Vajpayee has accepted the invitation and arrangements for India’s presence at G8 were finalised during talks in Paris earlier this week between national security adviser Brajesh Mishra and Maurice Goudault-Montagne, diplomatic adviser to Chirac and Mishra’s French partner in the ongoing Indo-French strategic dialogue.

India’s foray into a G8 gathering apart, Vajpayee will be in the thick of global diplomacy for at least one week when he arrives in Berlin for talks with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder on May 27.

From Germany, Vajpayee will head for St Petersburg on May 30, where he will be with the world’s most important leaders who are all gathering in the home town of President Vladimir Putin for its tercentenary.

China’s new President, Hu Jintao, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and Bush are among the leaders who will be in St Petersburg for its 300th anniversary celebrations. The interactions both at the level of heads of state and government as well as at official and ministerial levels in Berlin, St Petersburg and Evian will give the Indian leadership a first-hand opportunity to assess and review its options on the global stage in the aftermath of the war in Iraq.

All three countries being visited by Vajpayee actively opposed the American attack on Iraq.

Pressure is on the poet-Prime Minister to head from the G8 summit to Suriname, where the seventh World Hindi Conference will take place from June 5 to 9.

Organisers of the conference are keen on Vajpayee’s presence at the meeting not only because of his poetry, but also because he has given Hindi a global profile by delivering speeches in India’s national language at the UN General Assembly. If Vajpayee goes to Suriname, he is likely to stop over in New York at least for a day.

In addition to Vajpayee, Chirac has invited China’s Hu, Brazil’s new Left President, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and several other leaders, including some from Africa, which was a major constituency for France when it stood up against the US on Iraq.

At that time, Chirac got together more than 50 African countries for a summit in Paris, which endorsed his stand on Iraq. The Americans have long treated the G8 the way India has treated the non-aligned movement.

Throughout its history, G8 nations have supported the US and Washington has relied on the group to advance its agenda even on issues like India’s missile programme and South Asia.

The Bush administration is, therefore, unhappy that Chirac is using his incoming presidency of G8 to carve out a constituency for France and will utilise the presence of India, China, Brazil and others not allied to the US to focus on issues which Washington is allergic to.

Explaining his decision to invite countries like India, China and others to Evian, Chirac said “globalisation will only be accepted if each person sees a better, broader, more promising future in it. I decided to initiate these wide-ranging consultations in order to explain to the various partners what we are doing to control and humanise this globalisation... This led to the idea of inviting a dozen countries to Evian to convey, if only briefly — and here it is the underlying principle which is perhaps most important — their view of the way the planet, the world, is being and should be managed”.

In a reluctant and grudging approval of the French invitation to non-G8 leaders, US state department spokesman Richard Boucher said: “The G8 meeting has, for some years, been discussing opportunities for enhanced dialogue and cooperation between the large, industrialised countries and developing, emerging or poor countries.

“At this year’s summit in Evian, a separate meeting has been scheduled between the G8 leaders and a group of about a dozen countries whose leaders have been invited to participate in a separate meeting during the summit.”

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