New Delhi, June 2: After Atal Bihari Vajpayee, it is deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani’s turn to interact with US President George W. Bush.
Advani is likely to meet Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair during his visit to the US and Britain, which starts this week. Among other things, he will discuss the latest developments in South Asia following the recent peace initiative as well as the need to cooperate to fight global terrorism.
The Prime Minister has had a brief interaction with Bush and a more detailed meeting with Blair over the last few days.
Advani leaves for the two-nation tour on Saturday and will spend five days in the US. He is scheduled to be in Britain from June 15 to 17 on his way home.
The deputy Prime Minister will get a chance to interact with the US president as the latter is likely to “drop by” while the Indian leader is in Washington to meet key functionaries in the Bush administration.
Advani’s main discussion will be with Vice-President Dick Cheney, his counterpart in the US government. Other leaders with whom meetings have been firmed up are defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, homeland security secretary Tom Bridge, as well as attorney-general John Ashcroft, who was his host during his last visit.
At most of these meetings, Advani will seek to explain the rationale behind the Indian peace initiative with Pakistan and stress that Islamabad has to stop sponsoring terrorism in Kashmir and other parts of India if the South Asian neighbours are to have good relations.
Apart from Washington, Advani will also visit New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. A packed programme has been drawn up for the deputy Prime Minister and includes interaction with leading think-tanks, influential members of the American Jewish community and a lecture to the World Affairs Council in Los Angeles on Indo-US relations. In Chicago, he will address the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations. He will also have wide-ranging interaction with the Indian community in America.
In London, Advani’s first meeting is with Blair. His task in Britain will be similar to that in the US — discussing Vajpayee’s peace moves and the problems of cross-border violence and terrorism.
Western leaders have appreciated Vajpayee’s initiative and praised his efforts. It will be Advani’s task to stress that Pakistan has to stop cross-border violence and dismantle what India calls “terrorist infrastructure” — the facilities extended by Pakistan to militants crossing over to Kashmir.