Saturday, January 5, 2002, Chandigarh, India 

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Musharraf gets late coming via China
SAARC summit deferred till today
T. R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf (R) stands besides Nepalese Prime Minister Sher Bahadur after arriving at Kathmandu airport on Friday. 
— Reuters photo

Kathmandu, January 4
With no signs of any let-up in the turbulence in Indo-Pak relations, the inauguration of the Eleventh SAARC summit was deferred to Saturday morning because of the late arrival here of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf via China.

Realising the futility of indulging in one-upmanship as evidenced at the Agra Summit in July, last year, General Musharraf was highly circumspect about an interface with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee beyond the confines of the SAARC summit.

It is apparent the Pakistani leadership is guarded in pushing its gambit, though there is widespread disappointment in that camp.

General Musharraf told mediapersons on his arrival at Tribhuvan International Airport this afternoon that he could not be very sure if he would have an interface with Mr Vajpayee.

“It is not a question of making a request,” he replied in response to questions. “There should be willingness on both sides (India and Pakistan) for talks and the dialogue should not be one-sided (dono ki marzi honi chahiye).” At the same time, Pakistan would try to see that the progress of the SAARC grouping was not hampered, General Musharraf observed.

It is New Delhi’s conviction that it has not closed its doors for talks with Islamabad but Pakistan will have to create a “conducive atmosphere” by eliminating terrorists and dismantling the terrorist organisations operating from that country.

“The atmosphere is not conducive for a Vajpayee-Musharraf dialogue and there are no indications in this regard,” Indian spokesperson Nirupama Rao reaffirmed fielding questions from Pakistan mediapersons. “We are yet to see satisfactory responses from Pakistan.”

She refused to indulge in any value judgement when a foreign correspondent asked whether India was snubbing Pakistan by excluding it from the bilaterals, though Mr Vajpayee has held such meetings with the Heads of State or Government of other SAARC member-states.

She maintained that India had not received any request from Pakistan for a meeting as is the “usual diplomatic practice.”

Despite the focus on the continuing Indo-Pak impasse, the December 13 terrorist attack on Parliament House in New Delhi received the strongest condemnation from most SAARC Heads of Government.

Authoritative Indian sources emphasise the leadership will remain firm and in case there is a chance face-to-face, “we will be not found wanting in telling Pakistan straight from the hip to get its act together in first cleaning up the terrorists and terrorist organisations indulging in cross-border terrorism.”

New Delhi cannot afford to adopt a one-step-forward-and-two-steps-backward policy as Pakistan must stop sponsoring and abetting the proxy war in Jammu and Kashmir.

The atmosphere at the SAARC summit has been vitiated, much to the chagrin of host Nepal following the arrest of a Pakistani Embassy staffer here yesterday on charges of carrying and burning fake Indian and US currency

An official of the Pakistani Embassy here accused Nepal of trying to sabotage the SAARC summit at the behest of India by detaining one of their staff members.

Even though this is not the first incident of its kind involving a Pakistani Embassy staffer, Nepalese officials tried to soothe ruffled feathers by saying they would investigate the matter only after the SAARC summit concludes on Sunday.

There is widespread concern among other member-states like Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh that continuing Indo-Pak tension was impeding the progress of SAARC. Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga is believed to have told Mr Vajpayee during their meeting this evening that if Indo-Pak relations hinge on tempers running high indefinitely, it might be advisable for SAARC leaders to concentrate on bilateral visits for strengthening political, economic and social ties.

Being the biggest country with the largest economy, India has assured of playing a key role in SAARC by being positive and constructive.

In 1997, India had circulated a draft agreement on protection and promotion of investments in the SAARC region and has offered to host a meeting of experts from member-states in April.


Summit put off at India’s behest: Pak
Tribune News Service

Kathmandu, January 4
Pakistan today levelled a queer charge against India that New Delhi had plotted with Kathmandu for the postponement of the SAARC summit till tomorrow so as to eliminate chances of a meeting between Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and President Pervez Musharraf at the holiday resort of Nagarkot near here.

As per the original schedule, SAARC leaders were supposed to go for the Nagarkot retreat on Saturday, the only event there could have been a possibility of a Vajpayee-Musharraf meeting.

Pakistan Government spokesman Ashfaq Ahmed Gondal said the delay in General Musharraf’s arrival here would not have made such a big difference and did not warrant the postponement of the opening ceremony of the summit altogether. “It has to be done at the behest of India so that there is no possibility of a meeting between President Musharraf and Prime Minister Vajpayee,” he said.

Mr Gondal had an equally interesting answer to give when asked how could India be blamed for an announcement that had been made by the host nation, Nepal. He said: “Obviously, India must have asked them to avoid the meeting at the retreat.” He also said that General Musharraf arrived in Nepal at 3. 30 p.m. and the opening ceremony could have begun at 4 p.m.


Pak scribes blame India for delay
T. R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

Kathmandu, January 4
The tension and chill in Indo-Pak ties was all too evident at the media centre here among mediapersons from Pakistan who blame India for the hiccups connected with the inauguration of Eleventh SAARC summit which was shifted to Saturday (January 5) because of Gen Pervez Musharraf’s delayed arrival here via China.

Disappointed that India was against any bilateral talks with Pakistan on the sidelines of the SAARC summit, Pakistani newsmen sought to lay the blame at India’s door for all the problems afflicting them, much to the discomfiture of the host — Nepal. “If India had not banned overflights of Pakistani aircraft from the New Year, the Pakistani President would have reached here well in time,” was the agitated refrain. They were also disturbed that New Delhi had stopped the operation of the Delhi-Lahore bus service and the Samjhauta Express train from January 1 as part of the diplomatic offensive to force Pakistan to take a firm action against terrorists operating out of that country.

What the Pakistani scribes comfortably forgot was that India had offered overflight facilities to General Musharraf and his delegation if such a request was made. The abject frustration among the Pakistanis was too apparent. At the same time the message has gone home loud and clear that India is unwilling to budge or offer unilateral concessions till Pakistan makes a declaration and comes cracking down against terrorists and dismantles all terrorist camps in that country.

Peacemaking efforts

Even as the Western powers are mounting pressure on India and Pakistan to dissipate the war clouds looming on the horizon, at least three SAARC member-states — Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh — are making unobtrusive efforts in creating an ambience aimed at reducing the “heated atmosphere” between India and Pakistan. None of these countries view themselves as a peacemaker but are convinced that SAARC which is yet to take off in fulfilling its objectives of combating poverty and illiteracy cannot make an impact if India and Pakistan remain daggers drawn indefinitely. Barring Pakistan, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee is going ahead with bilateral meetings with all the other SAARC member states.

PM to rush back

With a tight schedule back home, Prime Minister Vajpayee had considered skipping the third and final day of the SAARC summit to be in time for receiving British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is once again on a whistle-stop South Asian tour. The idea was quietly buried so as not to send wrong signals and avoid embarrassment to Nepal. Mr Vajpayee will now attend the closing ceremony on Sunday and after attending a reception hosted by the Indian Ambassador to Nepal depart for New Delhi so that he is there on time to receive Mr Blair and hold discussions with him on the prevailing situation in the subcontinent. Mr Blair’s mission is to ease Indo-Pak tension.

Uplift of poor on agenda?

All newspapers in this Himalayan kingdom are worried that the SAARC agenda of focussing on the uplift of the poor could be hijacked because of the heightened discord between India and Pakistan. Editorials and edit page articles observed that “nobody can change geography but we can create history. Confidence building measures, mutual accommodation, complementing each other, respect for each other’s legitimate interests and fairness in bilateral dealings — these are essential for taking South Asia forward. Without the opportunity offered by the SAARC summit, would Vajpayee and Musharraf, Jaswant Singh and Abdul Sattar, for example, have assembled at the same place today.”

Another paper hoped in a front page editorial that “the Kathmandu summit would be forward looking and help India and Pakistan realise how important their mutually cooperative relations are in all the fields for rest of the countries of the region. They should also realise that in the absence of such relations, SAARC cannot become a regional body as envisaged by its founders.”Back

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