M A I N   N E W S

Vajpayee meets Musharraf
Leaders commit themselves to continuing peace process
T. R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

Islamabad, January 5
The turbulence and unabating chill in Indo-Pak relations appears to be easing with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee having an hour-long meeting with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and the two leaders hoping that the process of normalising bilateral relations will continue.

Even as New Delhi wants its primary concern of cross-border terrorism to end along with dismantling the terrorism infrastructure in Pakistan, Islamabad is keen on giving primacy to “disputed Kashmir” along with other issues bedevilling the relations between the two neighbours.

The prospects of resuming or kickstarting the stalled dialogue are bright with Pakistan spokesperson Masood Khan saying, “We hope the present process will culminate in a composite dialogue on all issues, including Kashmir. This is only my hope,” opting to play it safely, unlike Pakistan’s Information Minister Sheikh Ahmed Rashid.

It is not without significance that Mr Vajpayee’s courtesy call on General Musharraf here in the forenoon lasted nearly 60 minutes before the seven SAARC Heads of State proceeded for the retreat at the sprawling official residence of host Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali.

The foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan — Shashank and Riaz Khokhar — also had a meeting in the morning, raising hopes of a joint statement after the conclusion of the three-day SAARC Summit with Mr Jamali assuming the chairmanship baton of the fledgling regional grouping.

India understandably continues to be highly circumspect because of the unsavoury experiences in the past. At the same time, Pakistan Information Minister Ahmad Rashid set the cat among the pigeons by telling PTV that a declaration is on the cards after further Indo-Pak parleys on the sidelines of the Summit.

External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha underplayed the observations of Mr Rashid of an Indo-Pak declaration, observing that statements of this kind were “not doing any service to the Indo-Pak cause.” He, however, described Mr Vajpayee’s “courtesy calls” on Gen Musharraf during the day and Mr Jamali after the SAARC inauguration ceremony as the “peace process.”

At the same time, India gave ample indication of the two neighbours announcing more confidence-building measures, saying “such a possibility is not ruled out.”

Extremely measured and not creating any hype, Mr Sinha refused to go into the details of the Vajpayee-Musharraf discussions, but cautioned that “if anyone is saying anything more than what I have said, then he is not doing anything to the (Indo-Pak) cause.”

At the same, in an interview to a Pakistan daily on the eve of the SAARC Summit, Mr Jamali had alluded to the possibility of putting in place the framework for a structured dialogue between India and Pakistan soon as well as a Summit meeting in the medium term. India had not rejected it outright, but refrained from offering any comment.

The fact that Pakistan has kept the K-word out of the SAARC grouping so far, has also helped Islamabad convey a message that it does not want to hijack the Summit by violating the association's charter of raising bilateral issues.

Without naming Kashmir, both General Musharraf and Mr Jamali drew attention to festering political irritants between and among SAARC member countries seriously impeding the regional groupings’ efforts of according top priority to socio-economic issues and dealing effectively with the menace of terrorist violence.

Mr Sinha was categoric that the Indo-Pak cause was the furtherance of the process that was started on April 18 last year by Mr Vajpayee in Srinagar, extending a fresh hand of friendship to Pakistan.

Responding to a volley of questions about the contour of Vajpayee-Musharraf talks, Mr Sinha said “The fact that the Prime Minister of India came to Islamabad, the fact that the Prime Minister of India met the Prime Minister of Pakistan, the fact the Prime Minister of India met the President of Pakistan is progress. Please look at it like that.”

“We are dealing with a sensitive subject. I would not like to speculate. We are interested in the success of a certain process... we have to act with a certain degree of responsibility.”

Mr Masood, who virtually spoke the language of the Indians on the India-Pakistan “interaction,” said the long-term goal was to extend the CBMs to nuclear weapons.

He said: “Our first priority is to resume the dialogue process. Then the question arises of the level and agenda for the talks,” he added. 


Need to understand each other’s concerns, says PM
T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

Islamabad, January 5
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today emphasised that ultimately India and Pakistan have to find a way to work together “by understanding each other’s concerns and difficulties.”

“A quarter of a century has gone by in a jiffy and every year has thrown up new questions for which new answers are being sought,” he said in his inimitable style in poetic verse after laying the foundation stone for the extension of a chancery here this morning. As Foreign Minister 25 years ago, the Prime Minister was in the vanguard of inauguration of the Indian High Commission.

Mr Vajpayee in his short speech conveyed the message that both India and Pakistan must be adequately representated in each other’s country even as the dialogue goes on. “Confidence has to be built. The extended chancery will weather all kinds of storms and rain. Those occupying the new structures must fulfil their responsibilities. And improving relations with Pakistan is a big responsibility,” the Prime Minister observed.

Welcoming the Prime Minister, India’s High Commissioner to Islamabad Shiv Shankar Menon recalled that Mr Vajpayee had inaugurated the chancery 25 years ago. Mr Vajpayee was now laying the foundation stone for the expansion of the chancery spread over 10 acres.

Mr Vajpayee’s brief speech in Hindi which touched the hearts of those present went like this: “Dekhte, dekhte 25 saal beet gaye. Naye sawal khade ho gaye. Naye jawab mange ja rahe hain. Usme yeh zaroori hai ki dono deshon ka theek tareh se pratinidhitav ho. Samvad lagatar chalta rahe aur ek doosre ki mushkilain samajh kar hum mil kar kaam karne ka raasta nikalte rahen.”


Moscow welcomes meeting

Moscow, January 5
Russia on Monday welcomed the meeting between Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf on the sidelines of the SAARC summit in Islamabad and expressed hope that it would lead to resumption of a full-scale dialogue between New Delhi and Islamabad.

“Moscow positively views the meeting between the Prime Minister of India A.B. Vajpayee and President Musharraf of Pakistan on January 5 on the sidelines of 12th SAARC summit,” Russian Foreign Ministry said.

“We hope that the meeting of the leaders of the two countries would become the starting point for the resumption of full-scale dialogue between India and Pakistan on the basis of the Simla Accord and the Lahore agreement with the aim to resolve outstanding issues faced by them, and would play a substantial role in strengthening the foundations of stability and security, goodneighbourliness and cooperation in the South Asian region,” it said. — PTIBack


Islamabad Diary
Vajpayee can bring peace: PPP
T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

Irrespective of the unbudging stand of the hardliners in Pakistan, leaders of the Pakistan People’s Party and the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) met Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and commended the initiatives taken by him to promote peace in the volatile South Asian region. A delegation of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s PPP parliamentary party underscored the need for peace and firmly believed that a statesman of Vajpayee’s standing offered the hope of peace. A memorandum was submitted to the Prime Minister urging India to provide adequate visa facilities for Hindus to visit that country. MMA leaders headed by Maulana Fazlur Rehman met Vajpayee separately. The Maulana praised Vajpayee’s participation in the 12th SAARC summit and welcomed the confidence-building measures announced by India and Pakistan to normalise the fragile bilateral relations. They also desired that the two neighbours resolve contentious issues including the protracted Kashmir issue.


Even though the Pakistan leadership has refrained from raising the K-word in the multilateral SAARC forum in an effort to put the economic agenda of the regional grouping on the rails, it has been raised in official briefings by hosts Pakistan. President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali obliquely referred to Kashmir by alluding to political controversies among SAARC countries bedevilling efforts to deal with the scourge of poverty, illiteracy and bettering the lot of the poor. With protocol compelling Gen Musharraf to take a back seat connected with the 12th SAARC summit, he came back to his pet theme of amending the SAARC charter for taking up bilateral matters while hosting a banquet for the seven assembled Heads of State or Government of the regional grouping. Gen Musharraf had harped on the same theme during the 11th SAARC summit in Nepal in 2001.


Leading human rights activists in South Asia, including former Prime Minister I.K. Gujral, Asma Jehangir, Kamla Bhasin, Kuldip Nayar, Demaris Wickremasekara and Farah Kabir, have proposed setting up SAARC Court of Human Rights. While acknowledging that setting up of such courts in South Asia is premature, these activisits impressed upon the seven Heads of State or Government to take steps to realise this objective as soon as possible. The high profile human rights activists from different fields impressed upon the SAARC leaders to uniformly implement the core international human rights instruments including the ILO conventions. 


Did Brajesh Mishra meet ISI chief?

Islamabad, January 5
National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra’s meeting with the ISI chief Lt-Gen Ehsan ul Haq here has sparked speculations that India and Pakistan are looking at possible ways of jointly dealing with cross-border terrorism.

It was not known whether Mr Mishra, a close confidant of Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, met the ISI chief today or yesterday.

Asked at his press briefing if he could throw some light on Mr Mishra’s meeting with the ISI head, External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha said: “I don’t think that is necessary,” without confirming or denying the meeting.

Pakistan’s former Foreign Secretary Niaz A Naik referred to the meeting on Pakistan Television.

Indian High Commission officials, when asked about Mr Mishra’s meetings in Islamabad, were evasive. the officials said.

However, Pakistan Foreign Office Spokesman Masood Khan yesterday confirmed that Mr Mishra had held ‘’significant’’ meetings with Pakistani officials.

Meanwhile, a Jehadi attack threat on Monday prompted suspension of air operations at the Islamabad airport, leaving travellers, including SAARC delegates and foreign journalists, stranded. — UNI

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