- The Washington Times - Friday, February 25, 2000

India's view on visit

Indian Ambassador Naresh Chandra says President Clinton will make his own decision about where he visits on his South Asian trip next month.

However, if he includes Pakistan, the Indian people will "feel bad," the ambassador said without mentioning India's regional rival by name.

That was the closest Mr. Chandra came Thursday to urging Mr. Clinton to stick with plans to visit only India and Bangladesh. The White House has not yet decided whether to include Pakistan, where a military government took power last year.

Mr. Chandra told the Center for Strategic and International Studies the trip has created "a whole lot of misunderstanding about India's stand on the total program of the president, which country he is going to, where he is not going."

India's invitation to Mr. Clinton was "unconditional."

"We will do everything to make the visit as successful as possible, but we have to exchange very frankly and clearly the consequences of one action or the other," he said.

"We recognize that the dual program of the president is a sovereign decision, and we don't want to unduly influence it in any way, but it was our duty to point out the consequences in India."

Mr. Chandra said, "We have just started our journey on the 21st century, and happily, it's a coincidence that after 22 years, the president of the United States would be traveling to India."

He said Mr. Clinton and Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee hope their meeting will result in something more than "an official communique-variety type of thing."

"The idea," he said, "is to produce some kind of vision statement where the leader of the most powerful democracy and the leader of the most populous democracy put into words their visions for Asia and the world in the 21st century."

Mr. Chandra noted that the United States and India have maintained close, high-level contacts since India's nuclear tests and last year's clash in Kashmir between Indian soldiers and Kashmiri separatists backed by supporters in Pakistan.

"We are all aware of the great work that has been done by the team led by [Deputy Secretary of State] Strobe Talbott and [Foreign Minister] Jaswant Singh from the Indian side," Mr. Chandra said.

Mr. Chandra noted that the U.S.-Indian "dialogue is quite different from anything that we have ever had before."

"It has resulted in not only very healthy and friendly relationships at key official levels, but it has also generated an amount of understanding which has overflowed in all other areas and departments that were not represented at the talks," he said.

U.S. and Indian officials have agreed to continue the meetings every other month, he said.

Hispanic roots

King Juan Carlos of Spain wants Americans to remember their Spanish heritage, even those without a drop of Latin blood.

The king Thursday joined officials at the Library of Congress to launch a new Internet site to promote Hispanic history in the Western Hemisphere.

With a click of a mouse, he posted the first document, a copy of a 1562 map of the Americas.

He said he hopes the new project, a joint venture between Spain and the United States, will build "a new awareness of Spain's historic role in creating and forming the personality of the American nation."

He expressed confidence that America's Hispanic community "will ensure that the enormous colonizing task undertaken by its ancestors … is given due recognition by fellow Americans."

The king launched the site on the last day of his three-day state visit to the United States with Queen Sofia.

He quoted President Kennedy from a 1961 speech, saying, "Unfortunately, too many Americans think that America was discovered in 1620, when the pilgrims came, and they forget the immense adventure of the 16th century … in the South and Southwestern part of the United States" once part of the old Spanish empire.

The first permanent settlement in what is now U.S. territory was St. Augustine, Fla., founded in 1565 by Spaniard Pedro Menendez de Aviles.

The site (www.loc.gov/rr/ hispanic/frontiers/splash.html) is designed to offer an electronic library of rare material on history and culture of both countries in English and Spanish.

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