Tuesday, May 6, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Jamali confers with parties
To announce confidence-building measures shortly


  • Lok Sabha to discuss developments on May 8
  • US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage to hold talks with Pakistani leaders on Thursday on peace overtures
  • External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha to meet US Secretary of State Colin Powell in Moscow on March 14 on the subject

Islamabad, May 5
Pakistan Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali tonight held a meeting with leaders of major political parties seeking to build a consensus on the peace initiative with India as Islamabad virtually backed New Delhi's stand that careful preparations were needed for summit-level talks.

Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri added that Mr Jamali would also announce confidence-building measures to improve ties.

Leaders of Pakistan's political parties, which have representation in the National Assembly, attended the meeting held at the official residence of Mr Jamali, two days after he extended a formal invitation to his Indian counterpart Atal Bihari Vajpayee to visit Islamabad for talks.

Within hours of the invitation, Mr Vajpayee had written back to Mr Jamali saying a careful preparation on the ground was necessary for meaningful engagement at the highest level.

President Pervez Musharraf, in an interview to a private Pakistani television channel, said Pakistan could work for a no-war pact with India followed mutural reduction of troops and de-nuclearisation of South Asia if Kashmir issue was resolved.

Asserting that Pakistan was ready for a composite bilateral dialogue at any level to discuss all outstanding issues, including Kashmir, Foreign Ministry spokesman Aziz Ahmed Khan said Islamabad was also ready to get rid of its nuclear arsenal if India did the same.

Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri said, "We have taken decisions. Prime Minister Jamali will announce them. It won't be too long," he told CNN's 'Q and A' programme, adding Pakistan was "prepared to go the whole hog".

On India's proposal for resuming snapped air links, he said, "Pakistan is prepared to go much further by increasing people to people contacts" by opening road and rail links, he said.

Mr Kasuri said Pakistan was keen that all issues should be tackled through a "composite dialogue". "Pakistan is prepared to do everything. We are prepared to go one more step forward".

Asked how soon the talks could be held, Mr Kasuri said "We don't have to re-invent the wheels. Foreign Secretaries of the two countries have held several rounds in the past and at the Agra summit Pakistan President and Prime Minister Vajpayee had "almost agreed" on a document which could not be signed at the last minute. "So, we can go from Agra," he said.

On whether India preferred the slow or the fast process towards resumption of talks, Minister of State for External Affairs Digvijay Singh said "we are neither for slow nor the fast process....this time the results should be productive. We are looking for friendship and to see that everyone is happy".

On whether India agreed that Kashmir was the 'core' issue in Indo-Pak relations, the minister said India had made it clear that it was willing to discuss all issues, including that of J and K. "I believe that we are progressing in the right direction".

Pakistan also said that it was ready to get rid of its nuclear arsenal if India did the same.

Terming as ‘positive’ Mr Vajpayee’s reply to the invitation from his Pakistani counterpart Mir Zafarullah Jamali to visit Islamabad, Foreign Office spokesman Aziz Ahmad Khan said Pakistan was not disappointed about Mr Vajpayee’s suggestion for careful groundwork before the summit-level talks.

“We have received a response. It is a positive response,” Mr Khan told reporters when asked about Mr Vajpayee’s reply to Mr Jamali’s invitation.

Declining to give details of Mr Vajpayee’s reply, he, however, said that the Indian leader had called for a carefully considered dialogue process and Pakistan would respond shortly. He said Pakistan was ready for talks at both official and political level.

Within hours of receiving Mr Jamali’s invitation, Mr Vajpayee wrote back to him saying ‘careful preparations on the ground’ were necessary for ‘meaningful’ engagement at the highest level, indicating that he would not rush into summit level talks with Pakistan.

In a cautious and calibrated reply to Mr Jamali, Mr Vajpayee, in his letter emphasised India’s commitment to improvement of bilateral relations for which there was an immediate need for an end to cross-border terrorism and dismantling of its infrastructure.

Mr Jamali, while extending the formal invitation to Mr Vajpayee, promised to announce confidence-building measures to promote peace and security in the region soon.

The spokesman said Pakistan had responded positively to all gestures emanating from India. “We welcome the dialogue process with a positive frame of mind. We want to discuss all outstanding issues, including Kashmir. PTI



Decision soon on envoy to Pak
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 5
The Vajpayee government will "soon" decide on its next High Commissioner to Islamabad, though it may take weeks for the envoy to actually take over because of time-consuming diplomatic procedures.

Well-placed sources told The Tribune today that the Vajpayee government was considering "all options" in deciding on the new Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan. This may mean that the government may pick on a serving senior diplomat or a retired high-profile diplomat or even a political appointee who enjoys total trust of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani.

Sources added that the government’s "intention" was to identify the name of the envoy to Pakistan by this weekend but the name would not be announced till the envoy’s "agrima" is sent to Islamabad, the Pakistan Government’s approval of the name is secured and the "agrima" of Pakistan’s proposed High Commissioner to India is sent here. In diplomatic parlance, "agrima" means sending particulars of a diplomat to the country of destination for informally seeking that country’s approval.

The names of the new Indian and Pakistani High Commissioners in each other’s country would be announced on a reciprocal basis.

Till yesterday, the names of senior Indian diplomat, Mr Harsh Kumar Bhasin, and the seasoned Pakistani diplomat Riaz Khokhar as High Commissioners of India and Pakistan in each other’s country were doing the rounds. However, a new twist was added today.

Sources said there was rethinking about the name of Mr Bhasin, who was identified in June last year as India’s prospective High Commissioner to Pakistan, on several grounds.

First, Mr Bhasin, who was India’s High Commissioner in South Africa before he was brought here last year as Ambassador-in-waiting, has just about 15 months left for his retirement. Secondly, the Vajpayee government is still said to be on a scouting mission in the hope of finding a “better candidate” even though Mr Bhasin had been intensively prepared for the Islamabad job.

The new twist is understood to have arisen in view of speculations that India may not accept the “agrima” of the Pakistani envoy who has a hawkish image and an anti-India mindset. Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Riaz Khokhar, whose name is being touted in diplomatic circles as that country’s new High Commissioner to India, fits that bill.

Apart from being Pakistani envoy in India, Mr Khokhar has been Pakistan’s Ambassador to the USA and China.


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