M A I N   N E W S

Khokhar arrives to set agenda for talks
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 3
Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Riaz Khokhar arrived here tonight for agenda-setting talks with his counterpart Shyam Saran for the eventual Foreign Minister-level talks between the two countries on September 5 and 6.

India is plunging into the talks with a positive and realistic approach despite the fact that latest satellite pictures show terrorist training camps functioning in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and the infiltration of terrorists from across the Line of Control (LoC) going up in the past two months, a top political source and senior member of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) said.

It is understood that no dramatic results are expected to happen during the Indo-Pak ministerial talks this weekend, though India’s approach is process-based rather than being event-based.

Mr Khokhar arrived late in the evening because there was no PIA flight today and the Indian Airlines flight by which he came operates late in the evening.

Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri arrives tomorrow evening for talks with External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh on Sunday and Monday.

Separatist leaders of the two factions of Hurriyat Conference are arriving here tomorrow for talks with Mr Kasuri as has become their wont by now. Mirwaiz Omar Farooq and Syed Ali Shah Gilani, who lead respective splinter groups of Hurriyat Conference, Mr Yasin Malik (JKLF) and Mr Shabbir Shah (JKDFP) are among the separatist leaders who are coming here tomorrow for talks with Mr Kasuri.

Mr Gilani is to get the most preferential treatment from the Pakistanis and Mr Kasuri is expected to give him audience over breakfast on Sunday. Mr Kasuri is scheduled to meet other separatists separately on Sunday.

Meanwhile, the UPA government today received total backing of the Opposition as well as UPA partners to carry forward the peace process with Pakistan.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister Natwar Singh held a series of consultations with major political leaders today. Dr Manmohan Singh held a breakfast meeting with NDA Chairman and former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee while Mr Natwar Singh met a group of UPA leaders as also his predecessors Yashwant Sinha and Jaswant Singh as part of efforts to evolve a broad consensus.

A Foreign Office spokesman said the leaders that the Prime Minister and the EAM consulted supported the government’s approach to these talks and that this should not be seen as an event but as a process that needs to be carried forward.

The hour-long Manmohan-Vajpayee meeting was also attended by Mr Natwar Singh and Mr Yashwant Sinha. Later, Mr Natwar Singh held hour-long discussions with leaders of UPA allies Ram Vilas Paswan of Lok Janshakti, Mehbooba Mufti of PDP, Dayanidhi Maran of MDMK and Ramdas Athavale of RPI.

PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti later told reporters that her suggestion was that Jammu and Kashmir played a central role in the Indo-Pak relations and it be the “central” issue in terms of Confidence Building Measures. 

Pervez finalises strategy for talks
K.J.M. Varma

Islamabad, September 3
Ahead of the crucial talks between the Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz today jointly finalised the strategy to be adopted at the New Delhi talks, emphasising that progress on all issues under the composite dialogue process, including Kashmir, was essential.

Musharraf and Aziz reviewed the progress in official-level talks on eight issues under the composite dialogue process ahead of the Foreign Secretary-level parleys in New Delhi tomorrow to finalise the agenda for the September 5-6 meeting between Indian External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri. — PTIBack

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