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Natwar Singh assures Kasuri of continuing dialogue
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 6
External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh has struck a rapport with his Pakistani counterpart Kurshid Mehmood Kasuri which was evident from the “extremely warm” conversation the two had when Mr Kasuri telephoned Mr Natwar Singh this morning.

Mr Natwar Singh told The Tribune that Mr Kasuri called him up and during the 10-minute conversation he (Mr Natwar Singh) assured him that the dialogue process between the two countries would be carried forward.

“I told Mr Kasuri that in keeping with the well-articulated policy of the Government of India, the dialogue process with Pakistan would be carried forward in every area and contacts would be further intensified. I told him that the future of Indo-Pak relations does not lie in the past. I also told him that both India and Pakistan had vested interests in promoting good bilateral relations between the two countries,” Mr Natwar Singh said.

The two Foreign Ministers spent sometime in discussing what is being published in newspapers and magazines of the two countries. “I told Mr Kasuri that certain wrong and distorted media reports were appearing in both countries and the two governments should ignore such reports. I also told him that I have the highest of regards for him (Mr Kasuri) as well as President Pervez Musharraf,” Mr Natwar Singh said.

Mr Kasuri fully reciprocated these views and thanked Mr Natwar Singh for his kind words while expressing full respect for responsible media on both sides.

The two leaders hit the purple patch of their conversation when Mr Natwar Singh recited a couplet to Mr Kasuri which the latter deeply appreciated. The couplet recited by Mr Natwar Singh goes as follows: “Kuch nahin to kam se kam khwab-e-sehr dekha to hai, jis taraf dekha na tha ab tak, udhar dekha to hai.” (If nothing else, at least we have seen the dream of a sunny morning. We have looked thence, where we had not looked thus far.)

Asked what Mr Kasuri’s reaction to the couplet was, Mr Natwar Singh said: “He was very happy and appreciative. He told me that he was to address a press conference later in the day. Ab meri press conference kamyab ho jayegi (Now my press conference will be a success.) I will end my press conference with this couplet.”

The warm conversation and the fact that it was Mr Kasuri’s turn to call up Mr Natwar Singh reflects that the two ministers have struck some sort of good personal chemistry.

Mr Natwar Singh also spoke about his June 4-5 Nepal visit which he described as “extremely successful”.

“I met King Gyanendra for 70 minutes. I also met the Prime Minister and other senior Nepalese leaders like Mr Madhab Nepal, Mr Surya Bahadur Thapa and representatives of those Nepalese who live in the Terai region. I was given a Prime Minister-like treatment,” he said.

Asked whether he proffered any advice to King Gyanendra, Mr Natwar Singh said: “I did not give any advice. I just told him that the people and the Government of India greatly value our friendship with Nepal and would welcome the initiation of the parliamentary process and fresh elections in the spirit of national consensus.”

Mr Natwar Singh, when asked about the King’s response, said: “His Majesty told me that he was on this very job.”

Both the King and the Prime Minister handed over invitation letters to Mr Natwar Singh for the President of India, Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the Prime Minister, Mr Manmohan Singh, and the Congress President, Mr Sonia Gandhi, to visit Nepal.

On the ticklish issue of Maoists insurgency which has spread from urban to rural areas of Nepal in past one year, Mr Natwar Singh is understood to have conveyed a strong message to the insurgents while committing India’s continued support to Nepal’s economic development.

During his visit, Mr Natwar Singh also stressed the need for coexistence of constitutional monarchy and multi-party democracy in Nepal.

Diplomatic observers here attach a lot of significance to the minister’s reported statement in Kathmandu that New Delhi had an important stake in restoring political stability in Nepal.

Mr Arvind Deo, who was India’s Ambassador in Nepal from 1986 to 1989, said this statement of Mr Natwar Singh demonstrated India’s resolve of not shying away from its responsibilities towards its neighbourhood.

Mr Deo stressed the need for long-term Indian strategy in Nepal and other neighbouring countries. “Any political or economic collapse in our neighbourhood will have dangerous portents for the Indian politics and economy,” he said.

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