French Foreign Minister to arrive on Feb 12

Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 9
French Foreign Minister Dominique De Villepin is arriving here on February 12 on a bilateral visit. The Government of India as well as the Sikh community would raise the issue of French Government’s controversial ban on Sikhs wearing turbans during his visit.

Mr Villepin would meet India’s top leadership, including Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha, to review the progress made in bilateral relations since Mr Villepin’s last visit to India in August 2002.

Union Chemicals and Fertilisers Minister S.S. Dhindsa has urged Mr Sinha to arrange a meeting with Mr Villepin so that a Sikh delegation led by him and comprising National Commission of Minorities Chairman Tarloachan Singh could meet him and draw his attention to the sense of outrage in the Sikh community on the turban issue. Mr Sinha is understood to have assured Mr Dhindsa that he would try to arrange the meeting with Mr Villepin on February 12 itself.

Sikhs have held massive demonstrations in France on the turban issue. Considering that Mr Villepin’s visit is taking place against the backdrop of the turban controversy, diplomatic circles here feel that Mr Villepin may make some announcement on the subject to make sure that his visit is a success.

Indo-French relations have been strengthened in the past six years, particularly since January, 1998, when French President Jacques Chirac visited India. Mr Chirac’s visit was followed by Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee’s visit to France in 1998 and the first-ever visit by Indian President to France in 2000.