NEW DELHI: Nov 18, Reuter: Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev on Friday reassured New Delhi that Moscow’s warning relations with other countries -clear reference to China –did not mean a cold shoulder for India.

In a banquet speech on the first day of his visit to India, Gorbachev complained of “not exactly friendly” comments that Soviet friendship for India was waning.

Some go so far as saying that the Soviet Union is changing its priorities, even becoming cool toward India. I shall not dignify with an answer such totally groundless and obviously speculative assertions,” he said,

Some Indian officials say privately and some newspapers say publicly that they fear better Soviet ties with Peking would be to India’s cost.

Gorbachev, who arrived in New Delhi on Friday on his first trip abroad in his new role as Soviet President, told reporters at the welcome ceremony that Moscow cherished its ties with New Delhi.

The two countries are linked by 1971 peace and friendship treaty. Gorbachev demonstrated the importance Moscow places on ties with New Delhi with a visit two years ago. His first trip to an Asian country after he came to power in March 1985

But recently some Indian Press Reports have expressed concern over Moscow’s rapprochement with China, with whom India has had frosty relations since a border war in 1962.

Following a long estrangement between Moscow and Peking, Soviet and Chinese foreign Ministers are visiting each other’s capitals in the coming months to lay the groundwork for a possible summit of the two communist giants.

New Delhi is also trying to improve ties with Peking and Gandhi is making an official visit there next month, the first Indian Prime Minister to do so in 34 years.

Gorbachev said Moscow put its friendship with India in a class by itself. “Soviet Indian friendship rests on a firm foundation and has nothing to do with any transient considerations or schemes.”

The Soviet leader had private talks with Gandhi on Friday that lasted nearly two and a half hours. An Indian spokesman said they were held, “In an exceptionally warm atmosphere” and was at pains to stress that there was no discord.

He said the talks had ranged widely across international affairs and bilateral economic ties, but that no specifics had been discussed.

Gorbachev said he had begun talking with Gandhi about the role their nations had to play in solving global problems.

He said the Soviet Union and India both supported the settlement of regional conflicts, an apparent reference to Afghanistan, from which Moscow is withdrawing its troops after nine years of backing Kabul in a war against the Moslem rebels.

Gorbachev said the two countries would expand their economic ties from trade based predominantly on exchanging products to Industrial cooperation and joint ventures.

More than 50 possible joint ventures are under discussion between Soviet and Indian officials and businessmen.

Indian officials have laid special stress on boosting exports to the Soviet Union and Indian involvement in planned development of Siberia, a point made emphatically by President Ramaswamy Venkataraman in his speech.

The Kremlin leader arrived on Friday to a lavish welcome. Gandhi and his Italian born wife Sonia met Gorbachev and his wife, Raisa, at the airport.

Thousands of people lined the route from the airport decorated with flowers and photographs of the Kremlin couple, Gorbachev goat a 21 gun salute at the imposing presidential palace.

Some 5,000 police patrolled New Delhi to prevent any incidents and security officials said they were keeping a close watch on Afghan refugees, who demonstrated against Gorbachev the day before his first visit here in 1986.

Gorbachev was accompanied foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Kamentsey and other officials.

Article extracted from this publication >> November 25, 1988