M A I N   N E W S

India goes a step ahead, offers truce in Siachen
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 24
India today made yet another one-up move on the diplomatic chequerboard when it welcomed Pakistan’s offer of a ceasefire along the Line of Control and went a step ahead with its counter-offer of extending the ceasefire to the actual ground position line (AGPL) in Siachen.

In response to the Pakistan Prime Minister, Mir Zaffrullah Khan Jamali’s yesterday’s offer of a ceasefire along the LoC from Id, the foreign office came out with a terse statement.

The statement cleverly interwove the familiar rider of Indian concern over continued infiltration of terrorists from Pakistan.

It said: “We welcome the decision of the Government of Pakistan to work for expanding the communication links proposed by us on October 22. We now propose immediate technical-level talks for an early implementation of these proposals.

“We also welcome the announcement by the Prime Minister of Pakistan of a unilateral ceasefire with effect from the holy occasion of Id. We will respond positively to this initiative. However, in order to establish a full ceasefire on a durable basis, there must be an end to infiltration from across the LoC. To take this process further, we also propose a ceasefire along the actual ground position line in Siachen.”

Diplomatic sources told The Tribune that New Delhi’s offer of today showed the Indian diplomacy was slowly and steadily making Islamabad veer to India’s original confidence-building measures (CBMs) — that is bilateral dialogue minus the K word.

The recent diplomatic developments on the Indo-Pak front also reflect that Pakistan has by and by come round to the Indian position of having a bottom-up approach rather than top-down approach vis-a-vis Pakistan. That is, the dialogue between the two countries would begin from the foot of the ladder rather than the head of the ladder.

The Indian position on a dialogue with Pakistan has of late been that it would not repeat the mistake it committed in July, 2001, by holding a summit-level dialogue with Pakistan and instead would have a structured dialogue with Islamabad.

There is a feeling in the diplomatic circuit here that Mr Jamali’s offer yesterday was aimed at improving the atmosphere ahead of the January 4 to 6 SAARC summit in Islamabad, as the Pakistan Government is keen on Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s participation in the summit.

Mr Jamali’s surprise announcement can also be seen in the context of some very candid and explosive remarks made by President Pervez Musharraf at his dinner meeting with Pakistani editors on Thursday. General Musharraf had told the editors that Pakistan would have to set its house in order and tackle the jehadi and fundamentalist elements effectively otherwise the USA and its allies could take direct action and bombard Pakistan’s tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

For whatever reasons, the visible improvement in the Indo-Pak relations is also reflected in the growing people-to-people contacts between them— something which New Delhi has been stressing.

Already some 40 Pakistani children are participating in the mathematics Olympiad. Next week, a 134-member strong Indian delegation of “Young CEOs” is leaving for Pakistan, where they would interact with their Pakistani counterparts in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi, sources in the Pakistan High Commission told The Tribune today.

Islamabad will host two more SAARC-related conferences— first of communication ministers next month and of editors on January 1 and 2. The Pakistan High Commission today asked the Editors Guild of India for names of participants in the SAARC Editors’ conference.

Diplomatic observers said these and many more such programmes— in the pipeline— are bound to increase the people-to-people contacts between India and Pakistan.

Meanwhile, in a swift reaction, Pakistan today termed as a “step forward” India’s statement that it would respond “positively” on its unilateral ceasefire offer along the Line of Control and claimed that it had done all that it could to check cross-border terrorism or infiltration.

“Pakistan has made the offer (of unilateral ceasefire) that India has accepted, so it is a step forward,” Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri told NDTV 24x7.

HOME PAGE | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Opinions |
| Business | Sports | World | Mailbag | Chandigarh | Ludhiana | National Capital |
| Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |