Monday, January 7, 2002, Chandigarh, India 


M A I N   N E W S

Chandrika arranged meeting
T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

Kathmandu, January 6
Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga is understood to have facilitated a meeting between Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf impressing upon both that this was “an opportune time” for the two leaders to informally explore how the chill in their bilateral relations could be broken.

Soon after the 11th SAARC summit ended after adopting the Kathmandu Declaration, Mrs Kumaratunga brought Mr Vajpayee and General Musharraf together in an ante-room of the King Birendra International Convention Centre here.

Mrs Kumaratunga told the Sri Lankan media that initially the two leaders spoke of the prevailing situation in English with General Musharraf explaining to Mr Vajpayee his compulsions in Pakistan of being unable to extradite the Indian criminals taking refuge in Pakistan.

After discussing initially in English, Mr Vajpayee and General Musharraf are understood to have switched to Hindi and Urdu.

In the meantime, she said that the two leaders were joined by their respective Foreign Ministers.

National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra was also at hand to assist the Prime Minister.

Mrs Kumaratunga made a quiet exit from the ante-room of the convention centre after she found that it was best to leave Mr Vajpayee and General Musharraf alone after she had done the spadework so that they did not feel cramped to be frank with each other.

That led to intense speculations that Pakistan might take some steps as demanded by India that Islamabad must take stern steps to deal with terrorists and terrorist organisations operating out of that country.

However, India maintained after all the rumours doing the rounds here that New Delhi’s stand about resuming the dialogue with Pakistan remained unchanged.


All eyes were on Vajpayee, Pervez
T.R. Ramachandran

Kathmandu, January 6
The concluding ceremony of the 11th SAARC summit here in the forenoon had its moments of excitement for the assemblage at King Birendra International Convention Centre. All eyes were riveted on Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to see if they provided indications of reducing the tension between the two countries.

No such indication was forthcoming, though civility was not lacking. After the concluding session, Mr Vajpayee shook hands with all other Heads of State or Government. When the Prime Minister proferred his hand to General Musharraf, there was spontaneous applause. And that was that. India did not budge from its stand that for any meaningful dialogue with Pakistan, General Musharraf must create a conducive atmosphere. Mr Vajpayee acknowledged that General Musharraf had paid a courtesy call on him for five minutes and there was nothing substantive about it.

Musharraf’s repartee

At his press conference, the Pakistan President was rather subdued but not lacking in quick repartee and humour. He claimed that there was an informal interaction with Mr Vajpayee several times during the informal consultations among the SAARC Heads of State or Government. “We looked at each other and did not certainly talk about the Kathmandu weather”. Hoping for a turnaround in Indo-Pak relations, General Musharraf said: “I do not believe in cosmetic changes or cricket and bus diplomacy”.

Similarly, the foreign ministers of the two countries did not talk about the weather during the informal consultations between them and hoped that in 2003, when Pakistan hosts the 12th SAARC summit, the atmospherics would be more harmonious.

Asked if he was disappointed that Mr Vajpayee did not shake hands with him yesterday after the inauguration of the 11th SAARC summit, General Musharraf said the Prime Minister got up and shook hands warmly in the first instance when he went up after expressing the desire for genuine friendship with India. “Unfortunately we could not embrace each other as there was a big table in between”, he said.

Highly-placed Indian officials said there were no talks with Pakistan at any level. India did not lag behind in civility as the question of talking to Pakistan did not arise till it stopped cross-border terrorism.

Indo-Pak issues dominate

Indo-Pak issues have always hogged all the limelight at SAARC summits. It was no different this time. The thought in everybody’s mind was whether Mr Vajpayee and General Musharraf would meet on the sidelines of the SAARC summit to find ways of reducing tension between the two countries.

Rumours were flying thick that the two leaders had met and even today at the concluding session of the SAARC summit, TV cameras and news photographers captured External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh and Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister Brajesh Mishra talking and exchanging handwritten sheafs of paper.

The two countries reportedly conveyed to each other their expectations for resuming the stalled Indo-Pak dialogue. The general refrain of other member states of SAARC was that something drastic needed to be done so that India and Pakistan did not hijack the SAARC summits as evidenced so far.Back

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