The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mishra set for May massage mission
- Atal aide to go to US to undo Iraq faux pas

New Delhi, April 20: After the Prime Minister’s peace overture to Pakistan, it is the turn of his principal secretary and national security adviser to win the US over with a trip to Washington next month.

Brajesh Mishra, now in Tokyo for a strategic dialogue with the Japanese leadership, will be in the US from May 6 to 8.

He will meet his US counterpart Condoleezza Rice and other senior members of the Bush administration in Washington.

In New York, he will deliver a lecture at the Council for Foreign Relations.

The visit will follow Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s peace gesture, which is being seen both in India and abroad as Delhi’s serious attempt to lower the temperature in nuclear South Asia and re-engage with Islamabad to resolve the Kashmir dispute.

Mishra is also scheduled to address a business council meeting, organised by the Confederation of Indian Industries.

One of Mishra’s major tasks would be to remove some of the strain that has crept into the ties between Delhi and Washington after Parliament passed a resolution “deploring” the US-led war on Iraq.

He may also have to explain to the American leadership Delhi’s policy towards Pakistan in the wake of Vajpayee’s peace overture to the Pervez Musharraf regime.

Mishra may reiterate India’s commitment to peace and willingness to return to the talks-table, provided Pakistan halts violence in Kashmir and stops infiltration across the Line of Control.

According to South Block officials, Mishra’s visit to the US was planned well before the Iraq war and Vajpayee’s public meeting in Srinagar.

But the recent developments in Iraq and South Asia are vitally linked to Delhi’s ties with the US — and important to the region and the world. So both topics will form a substantial part of Mishra’s discussions with American leaders.

His visit is part of India’s overdrive to mend fences with the Bush administration to ensure Delhi gets to play an important role in the reconstruction of war-ravaged Iraq.

Delegations of the CII and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industries, too, will be in New York to lobby with UN and US officials when Mishra lands there.

His presence will enable the business organisations to lend the political push required to convince the US and the UN not to ignore Delhi’s role in Iraq’s reconstruction.

South Block officials, however, tried to play down Delhi’s reported differences with the US on the parliamentary resolution. “Omission is better than commission,” a senior official said, emphasising Delhi’s restraint when the rest of the world was criticising the US.

“I think our position had not gone unnoticed in Washington,” he said, and clarified that Indo-US relations were mature enough to take a few differences in their stride.

What Delhi really needs from Washington — other than its support for India’s role in Iraq’s reconstruction — is its backing for the Vajpayee government’s stand against terrorism and its relations with Pakistan.

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