January 7, 2002, Chandigarh, India
Vajpayee, Pervez meet informally
Kathmandu, January 6
“Indo-Pak tension has not eased but has not worsened either and I would like to exercise restraint even though it is not easy for me being a military man”, the Pakistan President said at a press conference after the conclusion of the suppressed Eleventh SAARC summit here this afternoon. He acknowledged that contacts and conversations had taken place during the SAARC summit and there was no “one-on-one” meeting.
It became apparent the intense pressure put by Washington on both India and Pakistan to de-escalate the situation with U S Secretary of State Colin Powell speaking on the telephone to External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Abdul Sattar yesterday was a compelling reason to engage in informal and perfunctory discussions. This is essentially to send the signal that the line of communication between New Delhi and Islamabad has not snapped.
At the same time Mr Vajpayee reaffirmed at a meeting with senior editors of the Nepali media here that there could be no Indo-Pak talks till the neighbour took stringent action against terrorists and terrorist organisations operating from Pakistan. He was emphatic that Pakistan must rein in the terrorists from committing “mindless violence in New Delhi.” Indian sources acknowledged that some informal exchanges had taken place with Pakistan but it was nothing “substantive.”
General Musharraf insisted that he and Mr Vajpayee met informally “not once but several times. It was not a formal bilateral meeting but an informal interaction.” He said the Foreign Ministers of the two countries also did likewise.
Though India expressed strong reservation about the US considering sending a special envoy to India and Pakistan to lower the ante, General Musharraf welcomed the move and said he was not disappointed at all. “If the two parties can’t resolve their differences and disputes then it is necessary for a third party to facilitate resolving problems between Pakistan and India.”
On the Prime Ministers response to his gesture of forging genuine friendship with India, General Musharraf said he has “noted his (Mr Vajpayee) views and concerns.”
He refused to hand over any of the Indian criminals taking shelter in Pakistan or the terrorists and insisted that Islamabad had not received any proof to initiate action in keeping with the “laws of Pakistan.” He said he considered Mr Vajpayee a friend. He would very humbly call Mr Vajpayee “a friend now and also in the future.” General Musharraf reiterated a two-stage approach with India. In the immediate context, he suggested removing the prevailing Indo-Pak tension and standoff. Later, there was need to address all disputes between the two countries for settling them amicably in the interest of the deprived people of the South Asian region. “We are sincere in the long and short-term perspective and hope to move forward,” he added.
We exchanged pleasantries: PM New Delhi, January 6
New Delhi, January 6
Replying to newspersons’ queries on his arrival from Kathmandu at Delhi airport, Mr Vajpayee said “What is there to say? We exchanged pleasantries. We inquired about each other.
The conversation was over (Batane layak hai kya ? Dua salam hui thi. Hall chaal pucha gaya. Baat khatam ho gayi).”
The Prime Minister said the interaction with the Pak President took place in a room where the leaders of the seven SAARC countries were together.
Confronted with Mr Musharraf’s claim that the two had talked about steps to defuse tensions between the two countries, Mr Vajpayee denied making clear that there was a discussion on de-escalation of tensions between the two neighbours.
To a question, Mr Vajpayee said he would “definitely” participate in the next year’s SAARC summit to be held in Pakistan if the situation become normal by then (sthithi saamanya rahi to zarror jaoonga).
Asked about British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s reported remark that Pakistan had a “strong case” on the Kashmir issue, the Prime Minister tried to downplay it saying that he would have to find out what exactly had been said .
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