- The Washington Times - Monday, August 7, 2000

India momentum

Indian Ambassador Naresh Chandra is emphasizing the improved climate in U.S.-Indian relations as he prepares for next month's state visit to Washington by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Mr. Chandra is also dismissing efforts by India's critics on Capitol Hill, who tried to get President Clinton to declare India a terrorist state.

"We are not making a big thing out of that," he said, describing a letter signed by 20 members of Congress as influenced by anti-Indian "propaganda."

"Some who signed that letter are having second thoughts," he added.

Mr. Chandra told Embassy Row last week that India has such strong support on Capitol Hill that Mr. Vajpayee has been given the rare opportunity to address a joint session of Congress on Sept. 14 to start his four-day visit.

"It is a very good gesture," he said. "It will give the prime minister a chance to deliver India's vision."

Mr. Chandra said Mr. Vajpayee is prepared to discuss his efforts to open peace talks with militants in Kashmir and to control Hindu violence against Christians, which the ambassador described as "hate crimes."

"Nobody's is minimizing the problems of the Christian community. Offenders have been caught and will be prosecuted," he said. "The overwhelming public opinion opposes persecution of the Christian minority."

The members of Congress who wrote Mr. Clinton cited the crisis in Kashmir and the attacks on Christians as reasons to declare India a terrorist state.

"Today in India, Christians, Sikhs, Muslims and other [minorities] are being subjected to a reign of terror at the hands of the Indian government," Rep. Edolphus Towns, New York Democrat, said in the House on July 27.

Rep. Dan Burton, speaking on the same day, accused India of refusing to allow a referendum on independence in Kashmir.

"India proclaims its democratic principles loudly, but fails to live up to them when the time comes," the Indiana Republican said.

However, their efforts were overshadowed by House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, Mississippi Republican.

"India is one of the United States' most important allies from a strategic, economic and political perspective," Mr. Hastert said in a statement last month, announcing that Mr. Vajpayee will address both houses of Congress.

Mr. Lott added: "We stand on the threshold of a new, more positive relationship with India. I look forward to hearing from the prime minister."

A senior aide to Mr. Vajpayee, H.K. Dua, is in Washington this week to prepare for the visit. He meets today with editors and reporters at The Washington Times.

Clinton to Colombia

President Clinton will visit Colombia on Friday to show his support for President Andres Pastrana in his efforts to seek peace with Marxist rebels and fight drug trafficking.

The White House said last week that Mr. Clinton will be accompanied by a bipartisan delegation from Congress.

This will be his first visit to the South American nation.

Spielvogel appointed

President Clinton has taken advantage of the congressional recess to appoint an ambassador whose nomination had been blocked by two senators.

Mr. Clinton appointed Carl Spielvogel, a wealthy advertising executive, to the Slovak Republic. The recess appointment skirts the Senate confirmation process.

Republicans Charles E. Grassley of Iowa and James M. Inhofe blocked the nomination last year. They did not disclose their objections to Mr. Spielvogel.

Diplomatic traffic

Foreign visitors in Washington this week include:

Today

• Croatia's President Stjepan Mesic and Prime Minister Ivica Racan, who meet President Clinton Wednesday and address the National Press Club Thursday at 11 a.m.

• H.K. Dua, press advisor to Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Thursday

• Pal Csaky, the Slovak Republic's deputy prime minister for minority rights. He addresses invited guests at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

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