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Kashmir issue will take time: Vajpayee
T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

Islamabad, January 3
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has emphasised that India has never shied away from discussing Jammu and Kashmir with Pakistan and rejected suggestions that New Delhi had become a junior partner of Washington like Israel.

“Even though J and K is an integral part of India, we have not shied away in discussing the issue with Pakistan,” Mr Vajpayee said in an interview to the state owned PTV telecast here this evening within hours of his arrival here for the 12th SAARC Summit. At the same time India and Pakistan have constantly aired their views on J and K.

Mr Vajpayee said it will take time to resolve the Kashmir problem though people of India and Pakistan are realising that the two countries should live in peace for the overall good of the region and the world.

“It is in the larger interest of the two countries to live in peace though talks with Pakistan will take its own pace and time.”

Mr Vajpayee said Gen Pervez Musharraf is not wrong in calling him a man of peace. “He (Gen Musharraf) should also come forward to improve relations. I am confident our efforts will succeed.”

He pointed out that time was needed to discuss contentious issues implying that Pakistan is trying to rush into matters which is not going to help issues.

“You will have to talk over a period of time and in a sustained manner. Only then things will become clear,” Mr Vajpayee said.

Asked why India’s dynamic change in policy towards China cannot be applied in the Pakistan context, the Prime Minister noted “We also want a change and I am hopeful about it.”

He stressed that India had never hedged in telling the United States that it did not agree with its policies. “When we do not like the positions taken by America, we tell them so. India’s relations with Washington are based on equality. I don’t think anyone has said that India is a junior partner of the United States.

At the same time, Mr Vajpayee told his PTV interviewer that at some point of time Pakistan was “considered a junior partner of the US.”

Mr Vajpayee also told the interviewer that what happened in Gujarat was sad and wrong. He pointed out that Pakistan was not an issue in the recent Assembly elections in India.

Pakistan will also not be an election issue in the general elections later this year.



Pak unrolls red carpet for PM
T.R. Ramachandran

PRIME Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee arrived in Islamabad this afternoon to a red carpet welcome by his Pakistani counterpart Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali. He was presented a guard of honour amid the playing of the National Anthems of India and Pakistan. Mr Vajpayee was accompanied to his car by Mr Jamali. As he was about to get into the car, Mr Jamali urged Mr Vajpayee for an encore for news cameramen and TV networks. Mr Vajpayee responded and after posing for photographs with the host Prime Minister, departed for his hotel amid tight security by the Special Protection Group. The Heads of State or Government of the seven SAARC countries landed at the Islamabad international airport at brief intervals. The international airport was kept closed to facilitate their smooth arrival.

* * *

The presence of Prime Minister’s Principal Secretary and National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra in the Pakistan capital has evoked great interest in the Pakistani media. Mr Mishra had arrived in Islamabad along with External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha by a special aircraft on Thursday. Mr Mishra has maintained a low profile and media reports in Pakistan have described him as a key adviser of Mr Vajpayee. Some newspapers reported that a lot would depend on the inputs of Mr Mishra in any bilateral meeting taking place between India and Pakistan on the sidelines of the 12th SAARC summit. It was also reported that Mr Mishra was seen at the ancient city of Taxila, a drive of about 45 minutes from Islamabad, as well as in Rawalpindi.

* * *

Even as a tight security ring has been thrown around Islamabad, the venue of the three-day SAARC summit beginning tomorrow, some special measures have been taken by the SPG which looks after the security of Mr Vajpayee. The SPG has come with its own BMW cars and special devices to detect and defuse any explosive devices or material. Host Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali had inspected a full-dress rehearsal of the security arrangements for the summit. A red zone has been created around the areas where the Heads of State or Government will be staying. Security will be the most stringent in these zones. Anti-aircraft guns and troops have been positioned in the surrounding Margala hills. Islamabad is virtually a city under siege with gun-totting personnel just about everywhere to avoid any untoward incident.

* * *

The SAARC atmosphere and bonhomie is evident all around. Just about anywhere that scribes and others have gone in the past two days, the widespread desire is to put an end to any hype of Indo-Pak war and strive for peace and friendship. This has been reflected by Pakistan Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali. The Indian side is also feeling upbeat that much against general expectations, the additional protocol on terrorism and the South Asia Free Trade area will become a reality.

* * *

A trip was organised for the scribes covering the summit to the ancient city of Taxila and the 500-year-old Punja Sahib in Attock district. Going around the ancient city of Taxila and paying obeisance at Punja Sahib was a rare experience. One of the 200 odd journalists from India took it upon himself to take the mike and give a historic perspective of Punja Sahib which is located in the town of Hasan Abdal.



PM to interact with hosts
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 3
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who left here this evening for Islamabad to participate in the 12th SAARC summit, said he would hold “bilateral meetings with other SAARC leaders, besides interacting with our hosts”.

“I hope all discussions, bilateral and regional, would proceed in the spirit of friendship, cooperation and good neighbourliness,” Mr Vajpayee said in a statement before leaving for Islamabad.

On the issue of terrorism, Mr Vajpayee said SAARC had been discussing the updating of the 1987 Convention Against Terrorism “so that we can cooperate more effectively in tackling this menace”.

“If we achieve progress in all these areas we can move closer towards realising the enormous potential for economic, social and cultural cooperation within SAARC,” Mr Vajpayee said.

The Prime Minister stated that the SAARC summit would deal with a number of issues of regional cooperation “which are at a stage from which significant progress could be expected, if we show the political will and a coordinated approach”.

Among the issues, the meeting would consider promotion of intra-regional trade and eventually a Free Trade Area within SAARC. “There are some significant recommendations for regional poverty alleviation programmes within SAARC. We have been able to agree on a Social Charter, which will hopefully further our objective of reaching the Millennium Development Goals in our region,” Mr Vajpayee said.

Significantly, the Prime Minister has used the word “interacting” instead of “talks” in context of Pakistani leaders.

In fact, Mr Vajpayee ruled out any bilateral talks with Pakistan during the SAARC summit at Islamabad. “There will be no bilateral talks. We want to give our undivided attention and energy to the success of SAARC. Its success will help resolve the other problems,” the Prime Minister told Doordarshan in an interview, hours before his departure for Islamabad.

In response to a question on the Kashmir issue, Mr Vajpayee said it was “a complex issue” and the efforts were on to resolve the issue.

“What is needed to resolve the issue is patience. This is because the issue has different aspects. One part of Kashmir is under Pakistani occupation and there is no talk about it. Another portion in the north is no longer a part of Jammu and Kashmir and has been given to a third country. A question could also raise on that. It is a complex problem,” the Prime Minister said.

Mr Vajpayee stressed the need for both India and Pakistan to strengthen friendship and work together to resolve the difficult problem which had been hanging fire for decades. If it was not resolved in the first attempt and had not been resolved for so long, there should be no slackness in our efforts to find a solution. “There is no other way,” he said.




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