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Singh asks Left to see US reality

The Hague, Nov. 7: India did not expect any hiccups in its relationship with the US after the re-election of George W. Bush to the presidency, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said here today.

'The US is a superpower. Its interests do not always coincide with ours. But there is an enormous scope for expanding our relationship with it,' he asserted.

He urged the Left parties to recognise the international reality. 'International relations are essentially power relations. We have to promote our interests and, therefore, we necessarily have to engage the US,' the Prime Minister said, reacting to the Left being upset with his calling President Bush to congratulate him and inviting him to visit India.

India's attempt, he said, was to continue 'a constructive dialogue and engagement (with the US) which enlarges the scope for autonomous decision making in our country'. There was no other choice, he suggested, but to engage America.

'By congratulating President Bush, I did my duty and that is what is expected of me,' Singh said. The telephone call to Bush, he said, had been initiated after 'mutual consultations'.

After congratulating Bush, the Prime Minister had reminded him of his promise to visit India. 'The US President said that he remembered it and that he wanted to build strong relations with India,' he said.

Singh also reacted to the differing perceptions of British Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac about the impact of Bush's re-election on the international power balance.

Blair has urged the European Union 'to work with the new reality' created by the American elections. However, Chirac has countered it by giving a call for a 'multi-polar world' and arguing that Europe more than ever needed to reinforce itself 'politically and economically'.

Treading a middle path in his phraseology, Singh refrained from using the stronger and clearer term 'multi-polar' to describe the power balance India sought, preferring to use 'multilateralism' instead.

He said India was for evolving an international order that protected the interests of all nations and promoted 'multilateralism' whether in the field of trade or the United Nations system.

The Prime Minister described India seeking the support of the European Union for its membership of the UN Security Council as 'an essay in persuasion'. He said: 'Those who have power do not relinquish it easily. So we have to talk to them.'

About the kind of investments being sought from the EU countries, Singh said India's medium-term problems related to large-scale investments needed in the infrastructure sector to expand and improve roads, railway, ports, airports and communications. 'We must have a fiscal stance which projects India as an investment destination in these areas,' he said.

He claimed that the Indian economy was in 'good shape' and a growth of over 6 per cent was expected this year. But India, he said, needed to set in motion those processes which would increase its competitiveness.

'Competitiveness is a double-edged weapon. It helps those who are strong and it hurts the weak,' he said but also assured Indian industry that it would be provided adequate safeguards and need not fear greater opening up of the economy.

On Iran being on the American scanner as the next target for preventing nuclear proliferation, the Prime Minister said Tehran must honour the obligations its has entered into. However, he said, the issue must not be exaggerated and 'should be resolved within the framework of the International Atomic Energy Agency'.

'We are not in favour of any country not honouring its commitments and obligations. However, we are also not in favour of increasing conflicts and increasing proliferation,' he said.

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