PM delays foreign tour over poll outcome | india | Hindustan Times
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PM delays foreign tour over poll outcome

The Prime Minister, who likes to leave for his foreign trips in the mornings, will be taking off this time by his special Air-India flight only at 2.30 in the afternoon, officials said.

india Updated: Dec 03, 2003 19:31 IST

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee leaves for Nigeria on Thursday for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) -- but only after hearing trends of the crucial assembly elections in four states.

The Prime Minister, who likes to leave for his foreign trips in the mornings, will be taking off this time by his special Air-India flight only at 2.30 in the afternoon, officials said.

According to election officials, by then results of all the four states -Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Delhi - which went to the polls on Monday, will be more or less clear.

The outcome of the elections will have a bearing on the course of politics in the country and the scheduled general election in late 2004. "Watch the prime minister's face and you will know the results," an official joked.

This will be one of Vajpayee's shortest visits abroad. He has not only cut short his visit to Nigeria by a day but cancelled a two-day visit to neighbouring Ghana that was to follow. He returns home on Sunday night.

Indian officials said the prime minister's programme was rescheduled because of the current parliament session and in view of his "parliamentary obligations".

They said this was no reflection on the importance India attaches to its strong links with the 54-nation Commonwealth. Officials noted that India has been the 4th largest contributor of financial resources to the Commonwealth budget.

"India has a special place in the Commonwealth as its largest member and by playing an active and significant role in the promotion of the fundamental values and principles of the Commonwealth," a senior official said.

Those values would be under test when the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) meets a day before Britain's Queen Elizabeth inaugurates the four-day meet.

The progress of restoration of democracy in Pakistan, the controversial expulsion of Zimbabwe that has come in for criticism from many developing countries, particularly African nations, from the councils of the Commonwealth and the situation in Fiji would all come up for review at CMAG.

While New Delhi may not oppose the lifting of the partial ban on Pakistan as strongly as it did at the previous CMAG meetings, it would make common cause with many African countries in making its reservations known about the action against Zimbabwe.

India does not agree with the view that the expulsion of Zimbabwe for President Robert Mugabe's action in redistributing lands owned by white landowners to the blacks as practice of racism in reverse.

It feels that the former colonialists and practitioners of apartheid continue to control the economies of many African countries affecting the lives of millions of Africans.

Officials conceded that India's stand on the issue could also have a backlash against people of Indian origin engaged in business in many of these countries.

The Indian prime minister has almost always attended CHOGM. One exception was the last one at Coolum, Australia, in March 2002.

Vajpayee did not attend that meet in the wake of sectarian violence in Gujarat, and External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha represented the country.