Government denies Sonia snub to Chinese minister (Lead)

September 10th, 2008 - 8:11 pm ICT by IANS  

Sonia GandhiNew Delhi, Sep 10 (IANS) Having conveyed India’s disappointment to China over its “questionable” role in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the government Wednesday did not want to stretch the issue further and denied that Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi was denied an appointment with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.“We have seen these reports. These are unfounded as there was no meeting scheduled to be held between the Chinese Foreign Minister and Chairperson, UPA (United Progressive Alliance),” external affairs ministry spokesperson Navtej Sarna said.

He was responding to reports in a section of the media that said Gandhi snubbed the Chinese minister by not meeting him - thus registering India’s disappointment over Beijing’s attempt to block consensus over a waiver for India in the NSG.

“There was no attempt to snub him. He met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee hosted a dinner for him,” an official source said in a bid to correct the growing impression in the media that Yang, who wrapped up his three-day visit to India Tuesday, was cold-shouldered by the powers-that-be in New Delhi.

Mukherjee raised India’s concerns and conveyed New Delhi’s displeasure over China’s reported negative role in the NSG to the visiting Chinese minister.

Yang, however, sought to clear what he called “the NSG misunderstanding”, saying Beijing had played a constructive role in the nuclear cartel and the decision to back consensus for India was taken much before the Sep 4-6 meeting of NSG in Vienna.

The Congress, which leads the ruling UPA, Wednesday also made it a point to deny such reports.

“The story was incorrect and without basis as no such meeting was scheduled,” Congress spokesman Shakeel Ahmed said.

“It is unwarranted and unfortunate that it has been connected to the developments at the NSG. The Congress party and the Communist Party of China have a long-standing relationship and they recently signed a memorandum of understanding too,” Ahmed told reporters here.

According to reports, Yang, here since Sunday on his maiden India visit as foreign minister, had sought a meeting with Gandhi Tuesday morning but he was denied an appointment. The reports quoted official sources as saying that though the Chinese side had set aside a slot between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. in Yang’s schedule for the meeting with Gandhi, the Indian side did not finalise it.

Instead, the Chinese foreign minister went on a short tour of Delhi, visiting some museums.

Asked if the Chinese foreign minister had made a request for a meeting, Ahmed said such requests are made to the foreign ministry, which would be able to comment on this.

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