The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Goodwill grain for Mugabe

New Delhi, Feb. 18: India has not sent just Sourav Ganguly and his boys to Zimbabwe.

Delhi has also decided to send more than 10,000 tonnes of foodgrain, farm implements and other equipment to help “friend” Robert Mugabe deal with the economic sanctions imposed by the West.

Delhi has also offered training and other assistance to Harare under its I-tech programme to help it return to the international mainstream.

Foreign minister Yashwant Sinha and Commonwealth secretary-general Don McKinnon today discussed the latest developments in strife-torn Zimbabwe, which has been suspended from the Councils of Commonwealth along with Pakistan for the “death of democracy” and put under heavy economic sanctions by the western bloc.

McKinnon’s visit is said to be part of his consultation process with key member countries before the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meet, scheduled later this year in Abuja, Nigeria.

India may not approve of the way Mugabe has handled the situation but, unlike the western countries, it feels that “inequitable distribution” of land is the main reason for the crisis plaguing the nation. Delhi also feels that Zimbabwe should be helped in its efforts at economic recovery in cooperation with international agencies.

Last year, when Australia and other countries initiated a move to suspend Zimbabwe from the Councils of the Commonwealth, India had aligned with the African group to forestall the move. It argued that a decision should be taken only after the elections in the troubled country.

Opinion was divided on the polls. While some felt they were a sham, others argued that though they were not what polls should be ideally, they were fair enough in the prevailing circumstances. Predictably, Zimbabwe was suspended from the Councils of the Commonwealth.

Australia, South Africa and Nigeria were given the task to review the situation in Zimbabwe and ascertain whether it has done enough for the suspension to be revoked and the sanctions to be lifted. But the meeting of the troika is yet to take place.

One reason for this is the sharp division among the three on how to deal with Mugabe. Australia wants the sanctions to continue. But Nigeria and South Africa feel it is about time that they are lifted. If they do not meet by March, the yearlong sanctions would automatically lapse.

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