Friday, June 22, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

President greets Musharraf
PM to consult Oppn on July 9 for talks
T.R. Ramachandran and agencies

New Delhi, June 21
President K.R. Narayanan tonight sent a message of good wishes to Gen Pervez Musharraf on his assumption of office as President of Pakistan, informed sources said. This is the first message sent to General Musharraf by anyone from the Government in India. 

Following is the text of the President’s letter to the Pakistan President, Gen Pervez Musharraf:

“I extend my best wishes on your assumption of office of President of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

India has always desired to establish a relationship of peace, friendship and cooperation with Pakistan. It is our hope that your visit to India next month as President of Pakistan will move India-Pakistan relations in positive and constructive directions.

Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration.”

President Musharraf may stay at Rashtrapati Bhavan for the night on July 14 when he arrives here for the summit with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, informed sources said tonight. The External Affairs Ministry is understood to have sounded Rashtrapati Bhavan in this regard.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee will meet leaders of the ruling as well as Opposition parties in Parliament here on July 9 to discuss President Musharraf’s visit to India beginning July 14, Parliament Affairs Minister Pramod Mahajan said today. The meeting would take place in the Prime Minister’s official residence at Race Course road. At least 40 leaders of various parties wer expected to attend the meeting.

The new-found status of General Musharraf as the President of Pakistan since Wednesday afternoon has compelled the mandarins in the Prime Minister’s office and Ministry of External Affairs to rework the protocol arrangements.

General Musharraf has desired visiting this country as the Head of State and the red carpet rolled out to him with all the attendant frills, including a 21-gun salute.

The situation has undergone a drastic change even though Gen Musharraf’s elevation as President of Pakistan has been on the cards for several months. New Delhi, however, did not anticipate that Gen Musharraf will annoint himself as President and equip himself with such sweeping powers in a span of a few hours yesterday.

Recently, the President’s Secretariat had dismissed as untrue reports in a section of the media that Mr Narayanan had not been kept informed about the invitation extended to Gen Musharraf to visit this country. Rashtrapati Bhavan had issued a statement that the President had been kept duly informed in this regard.

Official sources maintained that Gen Musharraf will be accorded all the honour due to a Head of State and his programme and itinerary during his visit to this country is still being worked out.

It will not be out of place to mention here that when an Indian media delegation visited Islamabad in July last year, Gen Musharraf had insisted in unambiguous terms that he would not be humiliated and deserved to be treated with respect due to a country’s Chief Executive.

This was a year after Pakistan’s misadventure in Kargil. After another 12 months down the line all that has changed with Gen Musharraf now wearing four hats — that of President, Chief Executive, Chief of Defence Staff and Chief of Army Staff.


Hotels vie to play host to VIPs
Girja Shankar Kaura and Gaurav Choudhury
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 21
It could not have been a better opportunity for showcasing India’s opulent traditions in hospitality.

The choice of Agra as the venue for the historic summit between the two leaders of the arch rivals of South Asia is itself a carefully thought out consideration. This specially as Pakistan’s First Lady, Begum Musharraf, had expressed her keeness to visit Agra and Ajmer Sharif.

And what better way would have been to roll out the red carpet for the VIPs from across the border than organising the summit at the very place where the First Lady of Pakistan wanted to be.

It would go further in the book of Indian hospitality when she is provided with accommodation with a view to the majestic Taj Mahal.

The race for the abode of the main players of the summit has started heating up and the choice could eventually be between a view of the Taj from the Taj Hotel or from the picturesquely located Oberoi’s Amar Vilas which actually would also be a retreat in the real sense and just 500 metres from the east gate of the only monument in the world immortalising love.

Although there was no official word available as yet in the Capital of the choice of the hotel where President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee will discuss threadbare the complexities of Indo-Pak relations, it is learnt that security teams are already in Agra to take a ringside view of the facilities at the hotels.

Sources here said that the final choice could be between the Amar Vilas and the Taj View hotel and prima facie it appears that Mughal Sheraton of the Welcom Group, seems to have been relegated to third spot in the race.

Initial indications suggest that Amar Vilas may get the final nod. More so considering the fact that its sister resort, Ram Vilas, housed former US President Bill Clinton during his visit to India last year.

It is learnt, that President Clinton’s trip managers were happy with the facilities in Raj Vilas, especially in view of the complex structure which fits near perfectly into multi-layered security ring as associated with any Head of State.

Amar Vilas also houses similar facilities which would actually provide an atmosphere of a retreat not far from Delhi, and exactly what India is aiming to offer to General Musharraf during his all-important visit to the country.

Although it is still to be completed, but it could provide privacy for a one-to-one talk between Prime Minister Vajpayee and President Musharraf — away from the prying eyes of the media. Spread over a vast expanse, the latest of the luxury hotels in the country has massive gardens in Moghul tradition which would add to the overall atmosphere for summit-level talks.

If Amar Vilas gets the final nod for the Agra summit, the Pakistan President is most likely to be accommodated in the most expensive suite in the hotel.

Titled Kohinoor, the suite designed for the connosieur spreads across a total floor area of 175 sq metres, and incorporates facilities such as teakwood floored private terraces, private swimming pool, spa, library, etc and carries a tariff of Rs 70,000 per night.

The other rooms of the hotels, involve differential tariffs with the lowest one being Rs 16,000 per night.

While officials of the Prime Minister’s Office make their final assessments on their choice of the hotel, the Oberoi group is believed to be working overtime to get the facilities in Amar Vilas ready on time.Back

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