New Delhi, India — With his two most pressing domestic problems behind him, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi embarks Monday on a five nation tour that will test his statesmanship in world affairs.

Gandhi’s two-week trip will take him to London, the Commonwealth summit in the Bahamas, Cuba, the United States and the Netherlands.

He will hold discussions with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, U.S. President Ronald Reagan, Pakistani President Mohammed Zia ul Haq and others.

It is Gandhi’s third major foreign tour in six months. He visited the Soviet Union in May and toured the United States, France, Egypt and Algeria a month later.

Gandhi, who inherited chairmanship of the 101nation nonaligned movement from his mother, will get his first chance to speak out at world bodies about South Africa and other key international issues.

The activities of Sikh and Kashmiri separatists in Britain will be a focus of Gandhi’s talks with Mrs. Thatcher, Indian Foreign Secretary Romesh Bhandari said Friday.

Bhandari said no specific arms deals would be discussed during Gandhi’s two-day stay in London. Recent news reports, however, said India is close to signing deals for the purchase of 21 Westland helicopters and 11 Sea Harrier jumpjets. Britain also is reportedly interested in selling the aircraft carrier Hermes.

South Africa is slated to be the main issue at the Commonwealth summit opening Wednesday in Nassau. India hosted the last summit in 1983.

Outside the conference hall, Gandhi is scheduled to hold talks with Sri Lankan President Junius R. Jayewardene on the island nation’s ethnic conflict.

India has acted as mediator between the Sri Lankan government and minority Tamil rebels fighting for a separate state. While a ceasefire was consolidated on the eve of Gandhi’s departure, he and Jayewardene are expected to discuss specific proposals for granting more regional autonomy to Tamils.

Gandhi goes to Havana Oct. 21 for a one day visit Oct. 21. Bhandari said talks with Cuban President Fidel Castro will center on the nonaligned movement.

The prime minister then heads to New York, where he is scheduled to address the U.N. General Assembly on Oct. 23 and confer with Reagan. Since the two met in Washington in June, the U.S. administration has agreed to supply India with a high-performance jet engine for an Indian built combat aircraft: However, proposals for supply of American high technology and  sophisticated military equipment have been stalled by what Gandhi says are unfair U.S. terms and conditions. Also in New York, Gandhi will have his second face-to-face meeting with Zia in an effort to improve tense India Pakistan relations.

Article extracted from this publication >>  October 18, 1985