M A I N   N E W S

Natwar rings up Kasuri
Says if you take two steps to peace we will take 2 & a half
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 3
External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh today sought to put the Indo-Pak detente into top gear when he telephoned his Pakistani counterpart Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri and told him “If you take two steps to peace we will take two and a half steps”.

In an exclusive interview with The Tribune this evening in his South Block office, Mr Natwar Singh said his government believed “in a nuclear weapon-free world” and categorically stated: “Nuclear apartheid is not acceptable to us”.

The latter part of his quotation was his elaboration, in response to a question from this correspondent, on his idea of a common nuclear doctrine for India, Pakistan and China which he mooted at his maiden press conference here on June 1.

“Since 1998 (when Vajpayee government did Pokhran-II) new circumstances have come up. Why should the nuclear matters be confined to only the Western Four (meaning, US, UK, France and Russia). We Asian powers (meaning India, Pakistan and China) should also talk among ourselves. We don’t believe in nuclear apartheid,” Mr Natwar Singh.

He told Mr Kasuri that the dialogue process would continue. “We will negotiate with whichever government is in power in Pakistan. Our objective is to carry forward this dialogue in every sphere, every area. That’s why I have myself announced these dates (for Secretary-level and nuclear CBMs talks).

A confident-looking Mr Natwar Singh stressed that there would be no let up from New Delhi’s side on smoking the peace pipe with Pakistan. “If there are any differences, they will be cleared by diplomatic means and not in public,” he stated.

Mr Natwar Singh said during his 10-minute conversation with Mr Kasuri, he told him that there was no firm proposal “as of now” on the common nuclear doctrine and this would be done only after the government committees (like the Cabinet Committee on Security) are formed by the Manmohan Singh government.

“It was in response to a question that I mentioned this point about common nuclear doctrine. I did not propose any doctrine. There is no specific proposal as yet. (Pakistan has already described Mr Natwar Singh’s idea as “innovative”.) When I made that point at the back of my mind was the Rajiv Gandhi Action Plan for a nuclear weapon-free world within a timeframe which he had proposed to the United Nations on June 9, 1988, and which my colleague Mr Mani Shankar Aiyer updated last year,” Mr Natwar Singh told this correspondent.

He said this doctrine had always been close to the hearts of the Congress leaders. “This is the doctrine which we have believed from the times of Pandit Nehru, Mrs Indira Gandhi and Mr Rajiv Gandhi.”

Mr Natwar Singh said he attached “very high importance and priority” to improving relations with Pakistan and to drive this point home he narrated how his meeting with Pakistan High Commissioner Aziz Ahmed Khan came about today.

“I was in my office when I came to know that the Pakistani High Commissioner had come to call on the Foreign Secretary. I immediately sent a word that I want to meet him. Then in his (Mr Khan’s) presence I picked up the phone and called up Mr Kasuri. I told him that from now onwards the future of India-Pakistan relations would not lie in the past. My conversation with Mr Kasuri touched on all issues of bilateral interest. Our conversation was extremely cordial and warm-hearted. I gave my regards to Prime Minister (Mir Zaffrullah Khan) Jamali and President (Pervez) Musharraf and he conveyed his regards to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Mrs Sonia Gandhi.”

Mr Natwar Singh added that all this had boosted the morale of the Indian Foreign Service.

That the political climate on the Indo-Pak front hit a purple patch and things started looking hunky dory was demonstrated this evening when Gen Musharraf conveyed his greetings and regards to Mr Natwar Singh through the Pakistani High Commission here.

Mr Natwar Singh today met 40 envoys from Europe and Americas in two batches, taking the total number of the envoys he has met in the past three days to a record 60.

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 |