Thursday, May 8, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Menon’s name as envoy sent
Pak suggests timeframe for talks
Rajeev Sharma and Agencies

In the midst of peace efforts by India and Pakistan, President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali on Wednesday attended a high-level meeting of Pakistan’s Nuclear Command Authority (NCA) which controls the country’s nuclear weapons. The meeting reviewed development works as well as the effectiveness of the command and control system.

Islamabad, May 7
Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Muhammad Kasuri today suggested a two-month timeframe for the two countries to hold officials’ meetings followed by Foreign Minister-level talks to resolve all outstanding issues.

Participating in a discussion programme on state-owned television today, Mr Kasuri said Pakistan had prepared the ground for talks with India eversince President Pervez Musharraf had come out with the proposal to hold talks anywhere and anytime after taking over power in 1999.

He, however, said: “We are prepared, but we are not rushing into it.”

Stating that “I do agree to some extent with Prime Minister Vajpayee’s argument that we need to prepare for this dialogue,” Mr Kasuri said “The preparations should not take years. It should be completed in a few weeks or at least in a couple of months.”

NEW DELHI: India on Wednesday snatched a diplomatic initiative when it sent to Pakistan the name of a senior serving diplomat as its prospective High Commissioner in Islamabad and sought their approval, but the Vajpayee government would take a while in announcing more confidence-building measures (CBMs).

It is understood that the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has sent to Pakistan the name of a seasoned diplomat, Mr Shiv Shankar Menon, who is currently India’s Ambassador to China. However, there has been no official confirmation of the name. Mr Menon is a highly-rated career diplomat having more than 32 years of experience in diplomacy. The MEA sought from Pakistan the ‘agre’ment’ for the appointment of the new Indian High Commissioner in Islamabad.

The ‘agre’ment’ — a French diplomatic term pronounced ‘agrima’ — was sent this afternoon, sources said.

With this, India had wrested a diplomatic initiative from Pakistan as the Pakistani Government had not yet sought from India the ‘agre’ment’ for the appointment of the new Pakistani High Commissioner in New Delhi.

The Indian announcement came on the eve of the arrival of two top American officials in Pakistan — Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca.

In another important development, India today sought a clarification from Pakistan whether yesterday’s announcement by their Prime Minister Mir Zafarnullah Khan Jamali of resuming air links between the two countries on a reciprocal basis would include direct air services and overflights.

The MEA said that the Pakistani authorities had indicated that this issue could be discussed further between the civil aviation authorities of the two countries.

India was unlikely to announce in near future another set of CBMs as it would like to await the Pakistani response. Sources said this time the Vajpayee government had decided to tread extremely cautiously in its dealings with Pakistan and see how far Islamabad went in addressing New Delhi’s two topmost concerns — stopping cross-border and cross-LoC infiltration of terrorists and dismantling the terrorism infrastructure.

That is why the MEA, in its formal response to Mr Jamali’s yesterday’s announcements of six India-specific and two SAARC-specific ‘concessions’ today chose to put on the back-burner for the time being several suggestions of Mr Jamali.

For example, Mr Jamali made suggestions on diplomatic representation, resumption of road and rail link, sports contacts and a dialogue on nuclear security-related issues as agreed in the Memorandum of Understanding in the Lahore Declaration.

The MEA today made a cryptic response to these suggestions as follows: “These measures can be considered in due course as we see progress on the steps announced by our Prime Minister, and there is evidence of Pakistan taking firm and credible action against cross border terrorism and to dismantle the infrastructure of support to terrorism... Discussion on nuclear and other CBMs can be held in the context of the composite dialogue, which has the specific agenda item of ‘Peace and security including CBMs’.”

The MEA welcomed the humanitarian gesture announced by Mr Jamali for release of Indian fishermen, 22 Sikh youths and the crew members of the Indian cargo boat “Rajlaxmi”.

However, sources said the Vajpayee government was disappointed that the CBMs announced by Mr Jamali yesterday were “inadequate” in two important respects — terrorism and trade. Sources pointed out that Mr Jamali did not speak a word on what his government was going to do on reining in terrorists. Besides, the trade-specific “concessions” announced by Mr Jamali were abysmally inadequate from the Indian point of view.

Meanwhile, Pakistan today dismissed suggestions that Prime Minister announcement of confidence-building measures with India were ‘inadequate’, saying these were far larger than those announced by Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. 

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