| Officials protect AB Vajpayee’s head as he gets off a military helicopter on arrival in Evian. (AFP)
Lausanne (Switzerland) June 2: Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today added India’s voice to that of France, Germany and Russia for creating a multipolar world.
Like them, he also did not espouse an openly anti-American position.
However, Vajpayee clearly argued that India should continue to follow an independent foreign policy to help create a multipolar world.
This approach was evident in his bilateral discussions with the world leaders he met over the last one week.
His emphasis on strengthening the UN and restoring its credibility and on the importance of a UN role in Iraq was indicative of this. These issues figured prominently in his bilateral discussions with Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, President Vladimir Putin, President Jacques Chirac and President Hu Jintao. Here was evidence, if it was needed, that India did not want the last international check on the only superpower in the world to wither away or its authority diminished.
Vajpayee called upon “all independent minded countries to work together” to create a multipolar world. A visibly relaxed Vajpayee at the end of his three-nation tour said while India’s foreign policy approach had always been independent, the “developments in our neighbourhood” (meaning, Iraq) had further underscored its importance.
This was not mindless anti-Americanism at work. All that it meant was that India would not accept uncritically everything that the US does or demands.
Vajpayee said although there had been requests for contributing Indian troops for security and stabilisation in Iraq, “we need answers to several questions: Why were Indian troops needed in Iraq' If deployed, would they have only policing duties or would they also be expected to use force if there were internal disturbances' How long would they be expected to stay in Iraq' What is the roadmap for Iraq’s future'”
Vajpayee said it was well known that US troops do not work under non-American command. “We also have a similar tradition,” he said.
This three-nation tour, Vajpayee said, had allowed him to experience first hand the differences that had cropped up between the US, France and Russia over Iraq. However, he praised the statesmanship of their leaders, saying: “They have realised that the welfare of the world lies in repairing the cracks that had appeared earlier.”
Vajpayee claimed that today “India enjoyed a certain status in the world”. That was why, he claimed, he was able to meet leaders of the P-5 (the Permanent Five members of the UN Security Council) within 24 hours.
The Prime Minister dismissed the suggestion that this was because India had become a nuclear power. “That was evident to the world for quite some time. Today our economy is recognised to be on a growth path. The (international) situation is also such that everyone wants to take India along. All that we have done is followed a policy of non-alignment with honesty,” Vajpayee argued.
The Prime Minister praised French President Jacques Chirac’s efforts for a dialogue between the Group of Eight (G8) developed countries and the developing world. This, he said, would make the G8 aware of the problems of the developing countries. “It seems that a new platform is emerging in the world which would see the developed and the developing countries coming together,” Vajpayee predicted.
Vajpayee said for the first time he had heard developed countries say at an international forum that they would be able to do little to alleviate poverty in the poorer countries unless corruption there was checked.
“President George Bush raised this issue forcefully and wanted to know how many countries had an oversight mechanism in place to audit the use of public funds. There is a need to introduce greater accountability in the expenditure of public funds,” Vajpayee said.
On the theme of Indo-Pak relations, Vajpayee said everyone he met had praised India’s renewed peace effort and there was unanimity on the need to put an end to cross-border terrorism. “Earlier we used to be asked to talk to Pakistan. Now the world is telling them to stop cross-border terrorism.”