Atal, Pervez welcome moves

Atal on Monday met Pervez, their first formal meeting in two years. What Atal-Pervez bilateral meant

india Updated: Jan 06, 2004 11:34 IST

 Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee met Pak president Musharraf on the sidelines of SAARC summit. It was described as a courtesy call 
It was a 'breakthrough' meeting that can set agenda for peace talks 
There could be a joint Indo-Pak declaration, Sheikh Rashid told NDTV 
PM was accompanied by Yashwant Sinha,

Brajesh Mishra and Foreign Secy Shashank
The two had not spoken formally since July 2001 failed Agra summit 
They earlier shook hands two years ago at the last summit in Kathmandu 
HindustanTimes. com Special
12th SAARC summit
India-Pak Talking Peace
The Kashmir Conflict

Two years after their armies stood eyeball-to-eyeball, Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf met on Monday on the sidelines of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) summit. The meeting was held at the Aiwan-i-Sadr, the President’s house.

Pakistan Television showed the two leaders shaking hands before sitting together and talking animatedly.

Briefing mediapersons on the hour-long one-on-one, External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha said: “On Sunday, our PM had requested a courtesy call on the Pakistani president. That meeting materialised this morning before Saarc leaders went into a retreat at Pakistani Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali’s residence.”

Diplomatic observers said the courtesy call had developed into a bilateral engagement. According to them, the two sides were on the verge of an understanding to kickstart a formal dialogue or at least add substantially to the existing confidence building measures (CBMs).

 Vajpayee meets Musharraf in Islamabad on Monday

However, the Agra fiasco was playing on Sinha's mind. Beyond describing the exchange of pleasantries between the two leaders and the fact that they welcomed the recent steps towards normalisation of ties, he gave nothing away about the nature of discussions held at the Aiwan-i-Sadr.

“At this stage, if anyone is saying anything more, he’s not doing justice to the cause of peace,” said Sinha.

Pakistani Information Minister Sheikh Rashid had earlier made a statement to the media about the possibility a joint Indo-Pak declaration.

The meetings between the two Prime Ministers, the Foreign Ministers, the Foreign Secretaries and finally Musharraf and Vajpayee were described by Sinha as “progress”.

Behind the scenes, however, there was a major development. National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra met ISI boss Ehsan-ul-Haq whom India has consistently accused of fomenting cross-border terrorism.

In an interview to the Hindustan Times, Pakistani Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat confirmed the meeting between Mishra and the ISI chief.

“These back channels are important,” said Hayat, adding that Islamabad could also consider concluding an extradition treaty with New Delhi. “We need a legal framework to cooperate. We can discuss these issues with India parallel to other issues. I would like to invite Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani to Pakistan for talks on such matters."

So, amid backroom meetings, coordinated by Mishra and Musharraf’s key aide Tariq Aziz, there were indications that talks about talks had begun between India and Pakistan.

First Published: Jan 06, 2004 00:00 IST