A day after PM's lunch, Advani says it was a good gesture
Beyond that, Advani or any other BJP leader did not want to say anything, reports Shekhar Iyer.Updated: Jan 04, 2007 01:38 IST
A day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hosted lunch for top BJP leaders, Leader of Opposition LK Advani has described it as a "good gesture".
Beyond that, Advani or any other BJP leader did not want to say anything in keeping with the PM's request that the details of the discussion be not made public.
But senior BJP leaders were keen to clarify that no discussion had taken place on the Indo-US nuclear deal.
In fact, Advani is understood to have spoken to Foreign Secretary Shivshanker Menon on Tuesday evening after a news agency report that the nuke deal was among the issues that figured.
The official release did not mention the nuke deal. It said External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee briefed the BJP leaders — Vajpayee, Advani and Jaswant Singh — and former National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra on the situation in India's neighbourhood and its relations with neighbouring countries.
According to BJP leaders, the PM's New Year initiative to host a luncheon meeting seemed more to deflect the oft-repeated criticism that he had not taken the Opposition into confidence on his foreign policy initiatives.
They were emphatic that the government did not discuss with them any specific planned engagement with Pakistan. Nor any proposal on New Delhi and Islambad for resolving the Kashmir dispute came up at the meeting though Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's 4-point proposal did come up. The BJP side did not mince words in expressing their views nor endorsed the government's position.
Significantly, as a preparatory exercise to the lunch, SK Lamba, the PM's special emissary for back channel diplomacy with Pakistan, had met Vajpayee, Advani and Jaswant Singh separately a few days ago. Lamba was also present at the PM's lunch.
During his meeting with Advani, Lamba had refutted that the PM had said in Havana that Pakistan too was a victim of terrorism, saying that the remark was made by "someone else".
Interestingly, a lot of talking at the Tuesday lunch was from the government side, particularly by Mukherjee who is due to travel to Islamabad on January 13. Advani, Jaswant Singh and Brajesh Mishra also responded.
In first engagement with Pakistani leaders as Foreign Minister, Mukherjee will call on Musharraf and his Pakistani counterpart Khurshid Mohammed Kasuri to invite them to attend the SAARC summit in New Delhi in April.
Advani had told the BJP conclave in Lucknow last week that the ruling UPA could compromise on Kashmir and cited PM's recent remarks, made in the wake of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's four-point proposal to resolve the issue, that "new ideas" to normalise relations with Islamabad were welcome.
Advani told a group of Stanford students at his residence on Wednesday that his party hoped something positive came out of the talks with Pakistan while recalling that Vajpayee moved ahead with the peace process after Musharraf gave assurance to India on checking the cross-border terrorism.
"This (the Prime Minister's invitation) was a good gesture," he said when a visiting student asked him about the lunch meeting with the PM.