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Friday, 4 January, 2002, 15:12 GMT
Newslog
Nick Robinson is with Tony Blair on his vital trip to south Asia. Here in Newslog, he is keeping an ongoing record of what's happening. Add your comments too.

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Friday 4 January

While we're in India...
posted by Nick | 1509GMT | Add comment
I have heard with interest news of the government's latest euro-embarrassment. (More details here...)

Things have come to a pretty pass when a statement of the blindingly obvious (i.e. that joining the euro is ultimately a political decision) makes headline news.

But don't blame the media. Blame the politicians who in this case - and many others - deny the blindingly obvious.

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DATELINE INDIA
posted by Nick | 1250GMT | Add comment
Spare a thought for us "instant communication" addicts. The media party has just faced 24 hours in a land where the mobile is not king.

So desperate one of my press colleagues became that he climbed a ladder on the roof of our hotel to get, I was told, closer to the satellite that would carry his words to the capital city of the Great British empire.

Sadly as he was wobbling on the ladder, a colleague stepped on his laptop, destroying both the machine and the inspired analysis.

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Feeling good?
posted by Nick | 0900GMT | Add comment
I have to say that the mood in the Blair camp seems relatively relaxed. They seem to believe that Musharraf of Pakistan and Vajpayee of India know that they have too much to lose to risk going to war.

Though one senior Downing Street figure did say that they were all aware that "it only takes a spark to light a bonfire".

A reminder this morning if any were needed of the price of war in this region. Tony Blair laid a wreath to remember the 3m people who died in Bangladesh's war of independence 30 years ago.

A staggering number, and a warning from history. (More details here...)

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Good morning from Bangladesh
posted by Nick | 0730GMT | Add comment
A masterpiece of Bangladeshi understatement in this morning's newspapers. They describe relations between India and Pakistan as "far from cordial", and then go on in the same sentence to say "a fact that's leading to fears of a nuclear holocaust".

Couldn't have put it better myself.

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Thursday 3 January

Best friends?
posted by Nick | 1612GMT | Add comment
Talking about Blair and Brown, there's a new addition to the media's charge sheet that things between the two men aren't what they used to be.

You might assume that following the chancellor's life-changing and at times traumatic Christmas he might have had a call from his "best friend" in politics.

Yet sources close to this "best friend" say that messages merely passed between the two men.

Perhaps Tony Blair was too busy talking to his new best friend George Bush. They at least talked regularly over the holiday period.

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Worlds apart?
posted by Nick | 0930GMT | Add comment
Bangladesh may be a world apart from Britain, but at first glance its politics look familiar.

The government here has just won a thumping two-thirds majority and pretty much ignore the opposition (a task made much easier by the fact that the opposition boycotts parliament).

Personality politics dominates here too.

However, superficial similarities are deceptive. The politics here is somewhat more lively and bloodstained than, say, the Brown/Blair split.

The prime minister's husband (a former military dictator) was assassinated, as was the father of the leader of the opposition, himself a former president.

Each leader blames the other. A world apart indeed.

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DATELINE BANGLADESH
posted by Nick | 0800GMT | Add comment
Damn him, he's done it again.

Tony Blair's looking fresher and fitter than those of us (mainly younger) paid to follow him. Then again, whilst he was picked up straight from his hols after a good night's sleep in Cairo, we flew through the night with barely a wink just to meet him.

Sour? Me?

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Wednesday 2 January

War and Peace
posted by Nick | 1730GMT | Add comment
Downing Street's learnt one lesson from last time - don't raise expectations, dampen them.

They point out - perfectly fairly - that this trip was planned before the attack on the Indian parliament and the talk of another war.

Much of Tony Blair's time will be spent meeting "ordinary people" and opening things, and not on high diplomacy. However, Tony Blair's long history of "changing the world" rhetoric and his perceived closeness to George Bush will mean that we all focus rather more on talk of war and peace than the opening an "office for good governance reform" in Hyderabad!

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Off on our travels
posted by Nick | 1502GMT | Add comment
Here we go again. I'm packing my bags for another "Blair the peacemaker" trip with memories still fresh of THAT tour of the Middle East.

It - as you may have noticed - did not quite produce the fresh impetus for peace which the prime minister envisaged then. The question at the heart of this trip is the same as that addressed so memorably in the Middle East - what's the difference between a freedom fighter and a terrorist?

President Assad of Syria was clear, as you may recall, that Palestinian suicide bombers were "freedom fighters" like General de Gaulle.

That mirror's Pakistan's traditional view of Kashmiri militants. But, just as the assassination of the Israeli tourism minister brought Israel fresh sympathy, India's now receiving more support after an attack on its democracy (Kashmir terrorists came much within a few yards of doing to the Indian parliament what Guy Fawkes failed to do to ours.)

Just as on his tour of the Middle East Tony Blair will urge one side to rein in the terrorists and the other to start talking about a political settlement. Those words won't count for much though. What will matter is the message he brings about what price either side will pay for not doing what the world (the US?) wants even if it upsets opinion at home.

I'm doing my best to be a neutral journalist but on this occasion I think I'm allowed to wish Tony Blair well and hope that he has more success in Delhi and Islamabad than he had in Damascus, Jerusalem and Gaza.

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