M A I N   N E W S

An extra round of talks
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 18
Just before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh read out the joint statement on Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s India visit in the presence of Gen Musharraf this morning, the two leaders had an unscheduled round of informal talks.

The talks at Hyderabad House are understood to have focussed on the Joint Statement itself, conveying that the two sides still did not have total convergence on the language used in the document till the very last minute. The two leaders met without any aides.

Gen Musharraf’s departure for Manila was delayed by over two hours, also because the General wanted to call on former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Gen Musharraf had enquired about Mr Vajpayee at a dinner here last night but was told that he had just returned from Raipur and was not well.

The joint statement, which the two leaders approved, contained win-win fomulations for both countries. The Indian leadership’s biggest achievement was that for the time in the history of Indo-Pak relations, it had succeeded in making Pakistan say in writing that concrete ideas for peace were being implemented. The key sentence in the joint statement, in this context, said the two leaders “expressed satisfaction on the progress in the peace process and the improvement of relations between the two countries that has since been realised.”

Another important point for India was that it committed Pakistan to opening of additional bus routes like Poonch-Rawalkot on the Line of Control (LoC) and having agreed meeting points for divided families, trade and pilgrimage as it jelled with the Government of India’s advocacy for “soft borders”.

From Pakistan’s point of view, the very fact that there was a joint statement at all was the biggest plus point as it conveyed that, unlike Agra, President Musharraf would not be returning home empty-handed. He would carry home a joint statement which mentions that the two sides discussed the issue of Jammu and Kashmir. Moreover, there was no direct reference to terrorism, except for saying that the two leaders reaffirmed the commitments made in the joint statement of January 6, 2004. The January 2004 statement had said that Pakistan will not allow any territory under its control to be used to foment terrorism against India.

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