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Nankana Sahib beckons PM

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh remains determined on visiting Pakistan despite events last week.

india Updated: May 28, 2006 01:12 IST

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh remains determined on visiting Pakistan despite events last week that, according to officials, foreshadow a freeze in bilateral ties. Reason: he is apparently keen to visit Gurdwara Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak Dev.

Officials running the Pakistan show say the failure to seal a deal on Siachen (demarcation of troop positions and a pullback) and the failure to engage the moderate wing of the separatist All Parties Hurriyat Conference (which boycotted the PM’s roundtable conference) were likely to lead to frostier relations between New Delhi and Islamabad. The confidence building measures appear to have run their course, and violence in the Valley is expected to shoot up, mirroring Pakistan’s aggressive policy on its western border (Taliban-related violence in Afghanistan claimed 339 lives in the last week alone).

Singh was keen that a deal on Siachen work out so that he could make a “state visit” to Pakistan in July. Sources say he was insistent that something be finalised, until the army put its foot down by pointing out that a pullback of troops without any demarcation of position would be disadvantageous to India. In fact, New Delhi was willing to go as far as accepting the demarcation as an unsigned annexure to the possible treaty.

The “state visit” now appears off, and officials are exploring whether a “working visit” can be arranged. Hawks in the government are even thinking of a “private visit”, so that the PM’s desire to visit the holy shrine, located about 75 km from Lahore, is fulfilled. Pakistan permits jathas of pilgrims to the Gurdwara thrice a year.

An indication of the hardening of India’s stance came last Saturday, when a delegation of PoK leaders met Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran and National Security Advisor MK Narayanan. When the delegates asked whether Singh’s declaration -- that there would be no redrawing of borders in J&K -- meant the LoC would continue to divide them from the Valley, Narayanan reportedly told them the redrawing was in context of J&K’s borders in 1947 -- when the state was one unit, pre-LoC.