M A I N   N E W S

Manmohan, Musharraf may meet on Sept 22
Girja Shankar Kaura
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 7
As the first round of `composite dialogue’ between India and Pakistan wound up here, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President General Pervez Musharraf could have their first meeting on September 22 on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session in New York.

Reports emerging from official circles here suggested that two leaders of the two nations trying hard to carry on a peace dialogue could have their first face-to-face meeting on September 22 in New York. Although the two leaders have spoken to each other over the telephone this would be the first direct meeting between them.

Earlier, President Musharraf had spoken to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over the telephone just after he had been sworn in. Then both the leaders had vowed to continue the peace dialogue. Both the leaders had also expressed the desire to develop strong commercial and economic ties.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who leaves for the UNGA session on September 19, is also expected to meet US President George W Bush on September 23, which again would be their first meeting as heads of state.

Dr Manmohan Singh, who was sworn in as Prime Minister earlier this year is also expected to meet the leaders of other countries on the sidelines of the UNGA session. However, the meeting with President Musharraf and President Bush would be of significance keeping in mind the progress of the composite dialogue between India and Pakistan and the strengthening relations between India and the USA.

Reports suggested that President Musharraf is also expected to meet President Bush a day earlier than the meeting between Indian Prime Minister and the US President. Hours after the breakfast meeting between the Pakistani and the US Presidents, the meeting between the Indian and Pakistani heads of states will take place.

The meeting between Indian Prime Minister and the US President a day after the latter’s meeting with the Pakistani President would be of significance from the Indian point of view as President Bush has already announced that peace in South Asia would be high on his agenda if he wins the second term. Besides, India would also be able to put forward its viewpoint on various issues after it has been done by Pakistan.

Incidentally, this would be the second meeting between an Indian Prime Minister and the Pakistani President this year.

Earlier, in January this year, former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had met President Musharraf on the sidelines of the SAARC summit in Islamabad, which also marked the end of their two-year long silence. The meeting in Islamabad had come after the failed Agra summit of July 2001. The hour-long meeting between Prime Minister Vajpayee and President Musharraf had also set in motion the formal process for discussing bilateral issues, now known as the composite dialogue. The meeting itself had overshadowed the SAARC summit.

Sources said like in Islamabad the Indian Prime Minister and the Pakistani President would be assisted by their foreign ministers and other top officials when the two meet in New York.

Pak army to shift headquarters

Islamabad, September 7
As part of its modernisation efforts, Pakistan Army has decided to shift its General Headquarters (GHQ) from the garrison town of Rawalpindi to a sprawling Pentagon-style headquarters in Islamabad for which President Pervez Musharraf laid a foundation stone.

General Musharraf, also the Army chief, formally unveiled a plaque yesterday commencing the construction of the complex in a 1400-acre land to house the Defence Ministry, Army Headquarters as well as the office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee.

Currently Pakistan army is headquartered in Rawalpindi where General Musharraf lives in the Army House, the official residence of the Chief of Army. Pakistan Defence spokesman Maj-Gen Shaukat Sulatan said while Pakistan Air Force and Navy built their headquarters along with accommodation for the staff in capital Islamabad, the army could not do it so far due to paucity of funds.

He said Services Headquarters being at one place would provide more personalised and intimate touch in preparation of plans and in understanding each others style of working and constraints.

Addressing the gathering at the foundation stone-laying ceremony, General Musharraf said the GHQ should be shifted in the shortest possible time frame, so that this project is completed with optimum cost, and operation from two locations Rawalpindi and Islamabad is avoided. He said the new complex should be a model for an efficient working and should not increase the load on the existing facilities of Islamabad, such as schools and hospitals. — PTIBack


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