ST. PETERSBURG, Nov 4: Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee arrived here on Sunday, on the first stop of a 10-day tour aimed at ensuring India plays a key role in post-Taliban Afghanistan.
The Indian leader will also be seeking to limit the influence of Pakistan in the war-ravaged country.
On the agenda is a series of meetings with St Petersburg’s governor, Vladimir Iakovlev, and members of the city’s intelligentsia.
Vajpayee is scheduled to travel to Moscow today (Monday), where he will meet Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the anti-terrorist campaign and the political future of Afghanistan, before leaving for Washington on Wednesday for talks with US President George W. Bush on November 9.
The meeting with Bush could be frosty given Vajpayee’s public impatience with US reluctance to act on India’s accusations that Pakistan is sponsoring cross-border terrorism in Kashmir.
Diplomatic analysts in India have warned that Vajpayee’s stance could reduce Indian influence within the international coalition by overreacting to the closer ties that have developed between Islamabad and Washington since the onset of military strikes on Afghanistan.
In recent weeks, India has aggressively staked its claim for a say in the post Taliban set-up, announcing 100 million dollars in humanitarian aid, appointing a special envoy for Afghanistan, and admitting that New Delhi was helping the opposition coalition with weapons in its fight against the Taliban.—AFP/dpa