External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee rounded off his two-day visit to Pakistan on Sunday with a visit to the world heritage site of Taxila. Before that, he met a cross section of the top political leadership, advocating to them a step-by-step approach to issues like Kashmir that have defied solution for six decades.
His attention drawn to the "flexibility" displayed by President Pervez Musharraf to settle the Kashmir question, Mukherjee indirectly brought up Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's proposal for cross-Line of Control consultative mechanisms on subjects that touched Kashmiris on either side.
In a replay of the Indian theme that confidence building measures were necessary to reduce the human cost of the conflict, Mukherjee recalled that both armies pitched in for relief efforts after the earthquake that caused havoc in Kashmir.
That kind of cooperative spirit, he reasoned, needed to be sustained in normal times. In a related context, Mukherjee reaffirmed the Indian position recognised now by Pakistan against redrawing boundaries.
Sources at the meeting said the interaction was cordial. The president of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid) Chaudhary Shujaat Hussain talked about restoration of the Katas Raj temple decided during the visit of BJP's LK Advani. A team of Pakistani archaeologists will shortly visit India to study temple architecture at Pushkar and other places.
The leaders Mukherjee met over breakfast at the residence of Indian High Commissioner Satyabrata Pal had led party delegations to India in recent months: Chaudhary Shujaat, Maulana Fazlur Rahman of the Jamiat-e-ulema-Islam; Asfandyar Wali of the Awami National Party who is the grandson of the Frontier Gandhi; Makhdoom Amin Fahim of Benazir Bhutto's PPP (Parliamentarians) and Dr Farooq Sattar of the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM). On demand, Mukherjee talked about coalition regimes in India and the role of the Election Commission.
The 45-minute drive to Taxila inspired Mukherjee to talk about India and Pakistan's shared common heritage and culture. "This commonality brings us together and can help resolve some of the present crises," he said.
In the context of his West Bengal constituency of Jangipur, he said, "Geographically there is a distance, but spiritually, there is continuity."