The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Advani to visit France, Qatar

New Delhi, Jan. 15: Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani is making a long overdue trip to Paris. The visit’s highlight would be the signing of an extradition treaty between India and France.

He will also stop at Qatar, where a high level political visit from India has been long pending. Advani and his team will be in Qatar on January 21 and 22 and in Paris on January 23 and 24. Like in other parts of the Gulf, there is a large Indian population working in Qatar and Indian companies have been operating there for several years.

Qatar is a moderate Islamic state and New Delhi hopes to closely engage such countries in an effort to drive home the point that the BJP-led coalition is not against Islam but only against Islamic regimes in Pakistan encouraging terrorism in Kashmir.

“It is important for India to engage with such moderate regimes in Qatar and Oman to make it clear to Indian Muslims that the government is not antiIslam,” said a senior home ministry official. For the deputy Prime Minister, often regarded as a hardline advocate for Hindutva, it is important to get the message across that he is against terrorists, not Islamists. A visit to Qatar will hopefully make this point, the official said.

Advani will spend January 23 and 24 in Paris. His main interaction will be with interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy. Both leaders are expected to focus on terrorism and exchange notes on how best to fight the war on terror.

India and France already have a joint working group on terrorism that normally meets twice a year.

Sharing of information is already on and India is hoping to learn from France’s expertise on cyber crime.

The extradition treaty will be signed by Advani and French justice minister Dominique Perben. In addition, the two sides will “operationalise” a mutual assistance in criminal and legal matters. India has extradition treaties with other European Union members like Britain, Germany and Spain.

Advani will meet the French Prime Minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin. A call on President Jacques Chirac is on the cards, though the time has not been finalised.

Chirac was the chief guest during the 1997 Republic Day celebrations and that visit set the pace for an overall improvement in bilateral ties.

India’s nuclear tests, however, proved the turning point in relations. When many European countries wanted to isolate and punish New Delhi for defying international opinion, France ensured that the EU did not impose sanctions on India. Apart from traditional ally Russia, France was the only other nuclear power which understood New Delhi’s position.

The two countries have since not looked back and have tried to expand cooperation on all fronts, including science and technology, space education and communication. Advani will be back in New Delhi for the Republic Day celebrations.

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