M A I N   N E W S

Pak not to raise Kashmir issue
K. J. M. Varma

Islamabad, December 29
Pakistan today promised not to raise the Kashmir issue at next week’s SAARC summit here and offered to remain “constructive and supportive” on issues relating to terrorism.

“I don’t think that this issue (Kashmir) will be raised, discussed or debated at the SAARC summit,” Foreign Office spokesman Masood Khan told reporters after a meeting of the Programming Committee which consists of Joint Secretaries from the seven SAARC nations. The Committee held discussions here to finalise the broad agenda for the summit.

Answering questions, Khan said the Committee had not discussed any proposal to change the SAARC charter to accommodate discussions on bilateral issues like Kashmir. Though the basic charter could be interpreted to take up contentious issues, SAARC by tradition avoided that, he said.

The four-day SAARC summit from January 4 will consider an additional protocol on terrorism which had been “discussed for a while” but which needed updating in the light of the UN resolution to freeze funding and financial support to terrorists, Khan said.

“I am not sure whether the additional protocol will be signed during the SAARC summit. But Pakistan will remain constructive and supportive on issues relating to terrorism,” he said.

Officials said India and Pakistan had differences on the proposed additional protocol with New Delhi wanting the member states to take specific steps and amend domestic laws to ensure that criminal acts by terrorists were not justified on political, ideological or religious grounds.

Having backed militancy in Jammu and Kashmir Islamabad is opposed to such proposals and formulations, the officials said, adding that it was unlikely that the additional protocol would include issues like cross-border terrorism although this would be raised informally at the SAARC retreat on January 5.

The summit was expected to review the Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism which came into force in 1988 following its ratification by the member states — Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

The draft of the new protocol could be placed before the SAARC Standing Committee meeting to be held on December 31 and its recommendations would be forwarded to the council of SAARC Foreign Ministers, which begins here on January 2 ahead of the summit. — PTI


Foreign Secy leaves for Pak

New Delhi, December 29
Foreign Secretary Shashank left here today for Pakistan to attend the two-day meeting of SAARC senior officials from Wednesday to set the stage for the 12th Summit of the regional grouping to be held in Islamabad from January 4 to 6.

With air links between India and Pakistan slated to resume only on January 1, Mr Shashank left here by train for Amritsar this afternoon and will cross over into Pakistan from the Wagah border post tomorrow morning.

The meeting of the SAARC Standing Committee, which will be attended by Foreign Secretaries of all the seven member-countries of the grouping, is expected to work out a common strategy to combat terrorism and iron out differences on the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) agreement.

The meeting will be chaired by Pakistan Foreign Secretary Riaz Khokhar. This will be followed by a two-day meeting of the SAARC Foreign Ministers on January 2 and 3 at which External Affairs Minister Yaswhant Sinha will represent India. — UNI


India mum on Vajpayee’s meeting with Pervez: Pak
K.J.M. Varma

Islamabad, December 29
Pakistan said today there was no confirmation from India about any meeting between Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and President Pervez Musharraf on the sidelines of the next week’s 12th SAARC Summit here but urged India to utilise the “historic opportunity” for bilateral engagement to discuss outstanding issues.

“We have no confirmation,” Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Masood Khan told reporters here, when asked about the possibility of Mr Vajpayee meeting General Musharraf.

He said the SAARC summit provided a historic opportunity and the leadership of the two countries should utilise it for bilateral engagement to resolve outstanding issues.

“As far as Pakistan is concerned, we are prepared to meet Mr Vajpayee and we will encourage meetings at the highest level and a meeting between the leaders of the two countries,” he added.

Mr Khan also recollected that some time ago Mr Vajpayee had said that he would be happy if Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali was to meet him.

“Our Prime Minister responded positively. We are prepared for a meeting between Prime Minister of India and our Prime Minister, if there is mutual willingness to meet each other,” he said.

Mr Vajpayee was scheduled to meet General Musharraf, when the Pakistan President hosts a dinner for the SAARC heads on January 4 but so far India has not openly agreed for any separate meetings between the two. — PTI


PM to stay at Serena Hotel in Islamabad

Islamabad, December 29
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his entourage will stay at Serena Hotel here during their visit to Islamabad for the SAARC summit from January 4-6.

Mr Vajpayee is scheduled to arrive in the Pakistan capital on January 3, a day ahead of the inaugural ceremony of the 12th summit of the seven South Asian nations. He will leave for home after the closing ceremony on January 6.

The arrangements for accommodating heads of state and government during the summit were finalised here today. Each of the heads of state or government will be given separate lodging facility in the federal capital.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Begun Khaldea Zia and Maldives President M.A. Gayoom will be lodged at the Punjab House while Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga and Bhutan King Jigme Singye Wangchuk will be accommodated at the Marriott Hotel. Nepal Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa will stay at the President House.

A large Indian media contingent, comprising more than 250 journalists, will be lodged at the Holiday Inn and Crown Plaza hotels.

According to Pakistan Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, more than 850 journalists from all over the world will be converging here to cover the summit. The summit has generated tremendous interest in the media as it would see the presence of the leaders from India and Pakistan on a common platform.

A senior police official said Islamabad had been divided into four security zones and private vehicles asked to use special stickers. The four zones have been allotted red, green, yellow and blue colours. — UNI 


Islamabad to be sealed for SAARC summit
Muhammad Najeeb

Islamabad, December 29
Pakistan will seal off its national capital as part of unprecedented security measures being taken for the SAARC summit to be held here on January 4 to 6.

Thousands of army and police commandoes have been deployed across Islamabad and military helicopters are being used to conduct aerial surveillance of the capital and its surroundings, officials said.

Sources said besides 4,000 police personnel belonging to the North West Frontier Province, officials of the Pakistan Army, Pakistan Rangers and Frontier Constabulary had been called in to provide security during the summit.

An Interior Ministry official said by January 1, over 100 entry points to Islamabad would be sealed off. Only people possessing identity cards will be allowed into the city.

Private vehicles will be barred from using the city’s key thoroughfares during the summit and a number of trees have been cut down, particularly in the area surrounding the Convention Centre, the venue for the meeting.

Pakistan is preparing for the 12th summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) after two assassination attempts on President Pervez Musharraf.

The heads of state and government of the seven-nation SAARC, which includes Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, will start arriving here on January 3.

“We are giving top priority and the fullest attention to security,” Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said. “There will be tight and stringent security arrangements during the entire summit. No private vehicles will be allowed on the roads during the summit”, he added. — IANS


Punjab seeks nod to export wheat

New Delhi, December 29
At a time when hopes are being raised about renewal of Indo-Pak trade, the Punjab Government has sought the Centre’s approval to export wheat and cotton to Pakistan.

The Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh, has taken up this issue with Union Minister for Food and Public Distribution Sharad Yadav, a Punjab government release said.

“The Centre’s clearance will pave the way for many important trade alliances with Pakistan. It will also help in providing a boost to the state’s economy and open avenues for more employment opportunities for our youth,” said the CM.

The Union Food Ministry of Food has recommended the case to Ministry of External Affairs for clearance. Currently foodgrains are not among the commodities in the official approved list for trade between India and Pakistan. With domestic prices soaring, Pakistan has decided to allow import of large quantities of wheat to build wheat reserves to stabilise prices, the release said.

In this connection, Markfed has interacted with a trade delegation from Pakistan and the Pakistan Flour Mills Association. — PTI

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 |