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Jaishankar hails Vajpayee’s handling of diplomatic situation post 1998 nuclear tests

New Delhi: External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Monday lauded then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s handling of the diplomatic situation following the nuclear tests in 1998 and said that within a space of two years India had engaged all the major countries of the world.

Presiding over the third Atal Bihari Vajpayee memorial lecture that was delivered by former Singaporean diplomat Bilahari Kausikan here, Jaishankar also hailed Vajpayee’s stint as an external affairs minister, and his role in strengthening India’s ties with the US and Russia.

The external affairs minister said the fundamentals of mutual respect, mutual sensitivity and mutual interest that are talked about now in terms of the modus vivendi with China, a lot of it is credited to Vajpayee.

Asserting that Vajpayee was never “impervious” to the challenges of terrorism, Jaishankar hailed his realism in using all instruments at his command to actually try to forge a basis of relationships in this region which would very explicitly abjure terrorism.

Talking about the 1998 Pokhran nuclear tests, the external affairs minister urged people not to look just at the tests but also look at the diplomacy that followed them.

“Within a space of two years after the tests, we had engaged all the major countries of the world, had actually brought them around. When you had the visit of a president (Bill) Clinton, PM (John) Howard, PM (Yoshiro) Mori, visit of president (Jacques) Chirac. It was actually the post-test diplomacy, which I think anybody who is in the field of diplomacy, should look at and seek to draw lessons,” he said.

“I was at that time posted in Japan and it was a relationship that was particularly affected by the nuclear tests. But we always drew from the prime minister’s confidence that we would find a way of settling it down and indeed today when I look at that relationship, I marvel at the wisdom and the maturity with which prime minister Vajpayee got all of us to look at that particular challenge,” Jaishankar said.

India conducted five nuclear tests of advanced weapon designs in May, 1998 at the Pokhran range in Rajasthan.

Jaishankar said Vajpayee also transformed the relationship with the US in the post Cold War environment. He said Vajpayee also imparted continuity and stability into our ties with Russia.

Vajpayee served as prime minister thrice — first for a term of 13 days in 1996, then for a period of 13 months from 1998 to 1999 and then for a full term between 1999 and 2004.

The lecture was delivered by Kausikan, former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore. Kausikan is currently serving as chairman of the Middle East Institute at National University of Singapore.

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