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India de-recognises SADR

By Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, JUNE 27. Reversing its long-standing decision, India has de-recognised the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), paving the way for special ties with Morocco.

Morocco, a leading player in the 53-nation Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), had bitterly opposed India's ``ideologically-driven'' recognition of the SADR. The SADR, it has claimed, had been forcibly carved out of its southern provinces.

The status of this territory had been raised by the Moroccan Prime Minister, Mr. Abderrahmane El Youssoufi, during his visit to New Delhi last December. Linking the western Sahara issue with Kashmir, senior officials accompanying him had stated that Morocco, which had espoused neutrality on the Kashmir issue in the Islamic fora, was looking for a reversal of India's stance on the SADR.

Analysts here see the announcement as part of New Delhi's ``pragmatic'' efforts to come closer to leading moderate Islamic States. These countries include Indonesia and Turkey. In fact, India had rolled out the red carpet to the Indonesian President and the Turkish Prime Minister who had visited the country recently. India, in a bid to deepen its relationship with the Islamic world, is also consciously cultivating Iran and Saudi Arabia who have in the past been close allies of Pakistan.

Not surprisingly, the decision has been directly conveyed to Algeria, a leading moderate Islamic country, in the Maghreb. The decision was personally conveyed to the Algerian leadership by the Union Minister of State for Commerce, Mr. Omar Abdullah, who is on a visit there.

India, according to a senior Foreign Office official here, is the 20th country in the world to withdraw recognition to SADR. The stand is likely to influence a large number of developing countries within the non-aligned world.

While announcing the realignment of its position, India has left the option to the Polisario Front, which heads the SADR, to retain an office in New Delhi, if it so desires. The SADR diplomatic mission in the capital has so far been headed by a charge d'affaires. India also declared that it would maintain ``warm and friendly relations'' which had existed with ``all parties concerned'', including the Polisario.

The official clarified that the decision was taken against the backdrop of the ongoing U.N. efforts to resolve the territorial dispute between the Polisario and the Moroccan Government. The U.N. initiative entails implementation of the much-awaited ``settlement plan'' which is agreeable to both sides. Talks between the Polisario and the Moroccan leadership are expected to be held in London on June 28.

In a related development, the Morrocan Foreign Minister, Mr. Mohammed Bennaissa, has expressed ``satisfaction'' at the Indian decision. ``The new position of the Indian Government reveals obviously the rational evolution witnessed in the perception of the international community regarding the question of Sahara,'' he said. According to the Minister, the decision conformed with the ``logic and objectives'' of the U.N. settlement plan.

CPI(M) flays move

The CPI(M) politburo said in a statement here today that the decision was yet another step by the Vajpayee Government in ``reversing the non-aligned policy upheld by successive Governments''.

Describing the move as a ``total surprise'', the statement pointed out that India recognised the SADR in 1985 as it supported the right of self-determination of the Saharwai people. It accused the Vajpayee administration of acting under pressure from the Moroccan Government.

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