Sign of times: anti-nuclear Ireland’s red carpet for Missile Man

By Dipankar De Sarkar, IANS,

Dublin : Ireland, a torchbearer of nuclear non-proliferation, rolled out the red carpet for India’s missile man’ APJ Abdul Kalam – a move that officials on both sides said signalled a recognition of India’s rise on the world stage.

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Former president Kalam’s just-ended visit to the Irish capital of Dublin June 11-12 was marked by the Irish government according him the honours of a state visit – the Irish President and Prime Minister received him in their offices and Foreign Minister Micheal Martin hosted a dinner for him.

Ireland, a founder-member of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), was a strident critic of India’s 1998 nuclear test and the radical change in attitude was noted by officials on both sides.

“Our objections to the Indian nuclear test is a closed chapter. There are a small number of international commitments that remain to be fulfilled by India, but essentially we are looking forward now to starting a new phase in our relationship,” a senior Irish foreign office official said.

“We want to move on,” the official added.

At the dinner in the Foreign Ministry, Martin specifically mentioned the importance of Kalam’s visit – and present on the occasion was the Justice Minister Eamon O’Cuiv, grandson of the late Irish leader and Jawaharlal Nehru’s friend Eamon de Valera.

Ireland, along with Austria and New Zealand unsuccessfully opposed a waiver of the India-US nuclear treaty at the Nuclear Suppliers Group in Vienna last year.

During his visit, Kalam, often called India’s Missile Man for his expertise in rocket engineering, fielded questions about India’s nuclear policy with ease, pointing out that nuclear disarmament remained a cornerstone of India’s policy but that the US and Russia must provide the lead.

Diplomats on both sides said the two countries are happy to �park’ the nuclear issue in order to urgently tap synergies in their dynamic economies.

Senior Indian diplomats said Kalam’s visit highlighted Ireland’s “pragmatic approach” to foreign policy, with the two countries now keen to get on with developing their economic and business relations.

Ireland, known as the European Tiger for its dynamic economy until recently, has an industrial profile that mirrors aspects of India’s economy, including a strong Information Technology sector.

Both countries are also keen to develop their knowledge economies and see strong potential for collaboration.

“India and Ireland are natural partners,” said India’s Ambassador P.S. Raghavan.

“They have both experienced the meteoric rise of their economies and both have a large educated and skilled workforce. Their �look East’ policy focuses on China, Japan and India, and they have worked very hard at India,” he added.

Natural areas of collaboration include IT, pharmaceutical research and development, health and education, Raghavan added.