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Atal ready for talks with Pak president

PM told Pak TV that he had no qualms about meeting Musharraf.

india Updated: Jan 03, 2004 21:19 IST

What PM said in the run up to 12th SAARC summit
 As he geared for the 12th SAARC summit, Atal has made many points clear... 
'He today ruled out any bilateral talks with Pak 
'On Friday he said the latest peace bid with pak was his last attempt 
'Terror is the only hurdle in Indo-Pak relations 
'There is vast consensus in India about the peace 
HindustanTimes. com Special
12th SAARC summit
India-Pak Talking Peace

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on Saturday said though Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India, New Delhi is willing to hold substantial talks with Pakistan to iron out the existing differences.

 
 Jamali welcomes Atal in Pak

"It is obvious that for talks to succeed you need time and it is for this reason, I believe the talks should continue. We have never shirked from talking about Jammu and Kashmir. Yes, it is an integral part of India, but even so we are willing to talk about it," said Vajpayee in an interview to PTV/ANI.

The Prime Minister said it is "not just alone in the interest of both the countries to live in peace, but it is also good for the region and whole world."

Vajpayee said he has no qualms about meeting Musharraf and expressed the hope that "whatever talks we will have, will lead to some results".

The Prime Minister said he has been working for friendship with Pakistan for the last 25 years, since he first visited Karachi as the then External Affairs Minister to open India's consulate there.

He said a lot of water has flown down the rivers of both the countries since then and it is time for both the countries to settle the disputes through talks.

"We have to live together, either fighting or in peace. People from both sides have realized the futility of fighting each other always," added Vajpayee saying that there is no need for a strategy to deal with a neighbour.

Vajpayee said if President Musharraf has described him as a "man of peace," there is nothing wrong in it. "I have been working for peace and will continue to work," said Vajpayee.

Replying to a question whether Indo-Pakistan relations would be an issue for the 2004 general elections, Vajpayee said Pakistan would not be an issue; on the other hand, the question would be "who wants to improve relations with Pakistan."

He described the happenings in Gujarat before the Assembly elections last year as unfortunate. He, however, denied that the Hindu-Muslim carnages were made an election issue.

The Prime Minister brushed aside the criticism that India is a "junior partner of America." He said New Delhi does not shy away from openly expressing its stand on issues of differences with the USA.

"We have a friendship with America, we have cooperation in many fields, but as equals and not as a junior partner," said Vajpayee.

The Prime Minister is now in Islamabad to attend the 13th SAARC Summit. Despite denials that so far no bilateral meeting has been finalised between Vajpayee and his counterpart or President Musharraf, External Affairs Minister Yaswant Sinha hinted at such a possibility. Talking to reporters on the sidelines of the SAARC Ministerial Council meeting on Friday, Sinha said, "let the Prime Minister arrive on Saturday, we will then decide."

First Published: Jan 03, 2004 16:15 IST