M A I N   N E W S

Foreign Secys to resolve differences

Pakistani officials present bouquet to Mr D. Shashank (first from left), Foreign Secretary of India, at the Wagah
Pakistani officials present bouquet to Mr D. Shashank (first from left), Foreign Secretary of India, at the Wagah joint check-post on Tuesday. — Tribune photo by Rajiv Sharma

Islamabad, December 30
Foreign Secretary D. Shashank and his counterparts from other SAARC countries will begin a two-day meeting here tomorrow to resolve differences on terrorism and other issues in the draft declaration circulated by Pakistan ahead of the 12th summit of the regional grouping.

The SAARC Standing Committee of Foreign Secretaries will also try to arrive at a consensus on the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) agreement that the seven-nation association is hoping to conclude at the January 4-6 summit as a vital instrument for forging closer economic ties.

Mr Shashank reached here this evening after crossing into Pakistan through the Wagah border. Later, he was due to hold informal consultations with the Foreign Secretaries from the other six member-countries.

India and some other member-countries had strongly objected to the whittled down reference to terrorism when the programming committee took up the draft declaration for discussion last evening.

‘’Members expressed unhappiness over the paragraph on terrorism, which is such a major concern for all SAARC countries. It has been relegated to a low priority item in the draft declaration and dismissed in three-and-a-half lines,’’ official sources told UNI.

In the draft proposed by Pakistan, the reference to terrorism is seen as a major dilution of the strong language adopted by the Heads of State and Government of SAARC member-states at their 11th Summit in Kathmandu two years ago.

“Most delegations had serious problems with the draft declaration in its present form,” they said.

According to them, Pakistan tried to steamroll a consensus on different aspects of the declaration.

At the end, it was agreed that the other member-countries of the seven-nation regional grouping would formulate their ideas and circulate them.

According to them, India, Sri Lanka and some other countries felt the issue needed more detailed and serious consideration.

“It is an example of the divide between Pakistan and the other countries,” they said.

India, for instance, felt the declaration must strengthen the SAARC Convention on Terrorism adopted way back in 1987 and include references to UN Security Council Resolutions on the subject.

The programming committee concluded its preparatory work for the summit today and adopted a report that will now be considered by the Standing Committee. — UNI


Advance team in Pak for security tie-up

Islamabad, December 30
A 40-member Indian team, comprising top security personnel and protocol and liaison officials, arrived here today to coordinate with elite Pakistani commandos the "fool-proof" security to be provided to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee during the SAARC summit.

Mr Vajpayee, who reaches here on January 3, a day ahead of the inauguration of the 12th SAARC Summit, will stay at Serena Hotel, which has been declared out of bounds for the general public. The Prime Minister has been placed in the "Z" security zone, keeping in view the recent assassination attempts on the life of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf.

The advance India team is also carrying sophisticated security gadgetry and weapons. A BMW car fitted with jammers for use in the Prime Minister's motorcade has already arrived here.

Alternative routes for Mr Vajpayee's travel in Islamabad, including from the Chaklala airbase to his hotel, were being worked out with the Pakistani agencies. "Travel by helicopter is also not ruled out," sources here said.

The team comprised men from the elite Special Protection Group (SPG) which takes care of the Prime Minister's security. Though the normal international practice is that the host country provides total security cover to a visiting dignitary barring proximate personal security, Pakistan has permitted Indian security agencies to have their entire protection wherewithal during Mr Vajpayee's visit.

The sources said the travel programme and the route of the Prime Minister from his place of stay to the meeting venue and other places may be subject to last-minute changes.

Two close proximity teams (CPTs) have already crossed over and reached Islamabad to secure the place where the Prime Minister would be staying.

Two more CPTs and a house protection team will also be joining the advance parties soon. A technical team will also follow soon, carrying de-bugging devices.

The sophisticated gadgets include highly-sensitive bomb detectors as also those to sweep mines and explosives. The security team would also be laced with high-powered guns including Kalashnikovs (AK rifles). — UNI


IA’s inaugural flight to Pak on Jan 9
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 30
The Indian Airlines (IA) today decided to start regular operations to Pakistan from January 9 with a twice-a-week Delhi-Lahore-Delhi flight which will later be followed by a Mumbai-Karachi-Mumbai flight.

Although the IA will initially take two special flights to Islamabad on January 2, primarily to ferry mediapersons and officials for the SAARC summit, the regular fights will start only from January 9. The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) hopes to start its operations into India from January 1 itself claiming that all its flights were already overbooked.

The IA officials also said that the bookings for the regular Delhi-Lahore flights would be open from tomorrow.

The aviation links between India and Pakistan were snapped from January 1, 2002, after the terrorist attack on Parliament on December 13 the previous year.

IA officials said the Delhi-Lahore services would be operated on Fridays and Mondays with Airbus A320s.

A decision on finalising the dates of commencing flights to Karachi would be taken at a later date, they said.

The fares on the Delhi-Lahore sector would be Rs 4,870 one-way and Rs 8,830 return on the business class and Rs 3,745 and Rs 6,795 in the economy class, respectively.

The IA has already opened its offices in Karachi and Lahore, with three local staffers at each places. The Station Managers at both places are Indian nationals.

Under the existing bilateral agreements, which are to be upgraded at a later date, the IA and the PIA can fly 12 flights each week.

The PIA has already announced its decision to operate 12 flights a week - five between Mumbai and Karachi, three on Delhi-Karachi and four on Delhi-Lahore sectors.

IA sources said the Indian carrier was ready to operate four weekly flights to Karachi and Lahore from Mumbai. Taking advantage of Islamabad’s decision to open up its air space, the IA would also start a direct Delhi-Kabul-Delhi flight.


Vajpayee may meet Pervez, says Shashank

Lahore, December 30
Indian Foreign Secretary Shashank today said Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is likely to meet Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali during the SAARC summit.

Mr Shashank, who reached Pakistan through the Wagah checkpost accompanied by his wife, told reporters there that issues concerning the region would be discussed during the summit.

India's Deputy High Commissioner T.C.A. Raghvan and Lahore District Co-ordination Officer (DCO) Khalid Sultan and senior officials were present to receive him. The couple was presented a bouquet on behalf of the Punjab Chief Minister, Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi.

Answering a query about the scope of discussing bilateral issues, Mr Shashank said they could also be taken up after Pakistan meets India's demands.

Asked whether India would discuss the core issue with the Pakistani leaders, he said the Indian and Pakistani perspectives of the core issue were different.

The Foreign Secretary later flew to Islamabad.


LoC no solution to Kashmir, says Pervez

Islamabad, December 30
Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has said that the Line of Control cannot be a solution to the Kashmir issue and “we need to move forward towards a peaceful resolution of the issue’’.

“We are for taking peace initiative forward towards resolution of our standing issues, including Kashmir,’’ General Musharraf said yesterday and dismissed the impression about a “sel out’’ on Kashmir as completely unfounded and regrettable.

He said at the 50th anniversary of the All-Pakistan Newspapers society (APNS) that the Kashmir issue was in the limelight and there was no outside pressure for a compromise on the Kashmir issue.

The President also hoped that there would be forward movement towards resolution of issues ,including Kashmir ,during the SAARC conference in the first week of January.

Pakistan, he said, was a declared nuclear power and had nuclear assets and a missile programme.

“There is no pressure whatsoever on me to roll back the nuclear and missile programme, we are not rolling back, there is no question, these are our national interests and only a traitor will think of rolling back,’’ The newspaper quoted him.

“the Kashmir dispute is in the limelight and now, we need to move forward towards a peaceful resolution of the dispute. Nobody is asking me to give up on Kashmir.”

President Musharraf also denied any split in the ranks of the army over his leadership and said that that there was absolutely no division among top military leadership and all corps commanders were with him. 

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