Wednesday, May 30, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Pak accepts PM’s invitation
Musharraf to visit in June
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 29
Formally accepting Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s invitation for talks, Pakistan Chief Executive General Pervez Musharraf today made clear that there was no chance of improvement in bilateral relations until “the root cause of tension between our two countries” was not addressed.

General Musharraf’s acceptance letter, delivered by Pakistan High Commissioner Ashraf Jehangir Qazi to Foreign Secretary Chokila Iyer, said: “The root cause of tension between our two countries is the unresolved Jammu and Kashmir dispute. I, therefore, look forward to sincere and candid discussions with you to resolve the issue of Jammu and Kashmir in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people.”

Stating that “we are ready to discuss all other outstanding issues between our two countries as well”, the Pakistan CEO, it appears, has consciously made no effort to respond to the Prime Minister’s show of warmth in his invitation letter.

In a very business like language, the Pakistani military ruler stressed that “Pakistan has always sought to establish tension-free and cooperative relations with India, so that our two peoples may be able to devote their resources and energies to the task of economic and social development. We wish to see a stable and prosperous India at peace with its neighbours.”

“At the beginning of the new century, our two countries must do their utmost to overcome the legacy of distrust and hostility, in order to build a brighter future for our peoples”, General Musharraf said while accepting the invitation to him and his wife.

Unlike Mr Vajpayee, who, in his letter, had avoided any reference to contentious issues, General Musharraf, has not refrained from raising issue of Jammu and Kashmir describing it as a “dispute” and “a root cause of tensions”.

When asked, a spokesman of the Ministry of External Affairs said “we are glad that the Chief Executive of Pakistan has very kindly accepted Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s invitation to him to visit India”.

Dates for the visit will be finalised through mutual consultations, the spokesman said.

Two sets of dates in late June or early July have been proposed to New Delhi, the Pakistan High Commissioner said.

General Musharraf, in his interview to the BBC, had proposed any date after June 20 for the planned visit to India.

“We are proposing any dates after 20th, 25th, end of June or early next month (meaning July)”, the Pakistani CEO said in his interview adding “I am available as soon as we arrive at mutually convenient date”. 


Talk to Pant first, Hurriyat told
M.C. Thakur

Manali, May 29
The Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, is hopeful of a positive response from Pakistan to India’s offer for talks for resolving the vexed Kashmir issue and said the future course of action would depend on its response.

Mr Vajpayee, who was talking to mediapersons at his residence at Prini, near here, today said India’s offer for talks was a well-considered initiative which demonstrated the self-confidence of the government and it should not be considered as “our weakness.”

He said General Pervez Musharraf, Chief Executive of Pakistan, had been repeatedly saying that he was ready to hold talks with India any time and at any place and now the ball was in his court.

Moreover, various other countries had also been in favour of direct talks between both countries. India had never said it would not talk to the military regime and it had maintained diplomatic relations with Islamabad even after the Kargil conflict.

He said India wanted the two countries to co-exist in peace and the initiative for talks was a step in this direction.

He advised the Hurriyat Conference to talk to the government’s mediator, Mr K.C. Pant, who had reached Kashmir, before insisting on a meeting with General Musharraf. “Doosron ki bari baad mein aayegi (the turn of others will come later)”, he added.

The Hurriyat leaders were released from jail to enable them to hold parleys with him. He, however, made it clear that the country would not agree to the demand for a plebiscite in Kashmir and this had already been stated by the External Affairs Minister, Mr Jaswant Singh.

Answering to a question about the ceasefire in Kashmir, he said the move was aimed at creating a congenial environment in the valley to find a solution. The ceasefire was called off as even after six months it failed to yield the desired results.

Mr Vajpayee said Kashmir was not a religious issue, but entirely a political issue and it could be resolved only at a political level.

Answering a question, he said the imposition of a dress code on Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan had been condemned by all and India would like a global referendum on the issue.

He said the Union Cabinet would be expanded before the monsoon session of Parliament to fill the vacancies. But he ruled out any possibility of reinduction of Ms Mamata Banerjee, Trinamool leader, in the Council of Ministers or her return to the NDA fold.

The Prime Minister, who is returning to Delhi tomorrow, found time to get in touch with “poet Vajpayee” during his week-long sojourn in the picturesque Manali valley. He said he composed his poem “Unchai” at Manali and he also recited some couplets of his poems.Back

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