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Pak not shy of summit

We are not averse to a summit meeting, says Pak envoy Aziz Ahmed Khan.

india Updated: Aug 26, 2003 21:11 IST

Pakistan is not averse to a summit level meeting between its President Pervez Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in New York next month, said Islamabad's envoy to New Delhi, Aziz Ahmed Khan.

"We are not shy of a meeting. Of course, there should be a mutual desire to have that meeting..." the high commissioner told The Hindu in an interview.

Both leaders will be in New York for the U.N. General Assembly session next month.

On the issue of talks between the two neighbouring rivals, Khan said there was no reason why foreign secretary level talks could not be resumed. One round of talks had already been held in 1998 as part of the composite dialogue process and the process could continue.

"The secretary level talks can kick off the discussions and, as progress is achieved, one can see whether and when to raise the level of discussions," said Khan in his first interview to the Indian media after arriving here June 30.

The high commissioner clarified that trade issues between India and Pakistan would have to be discussed bilaterally as part of the composite dialogue process agreed upon in 1997.

"A composite dialogue will be a simultaneous dialogue in all areas. Of course, Pakistan is ready and willing to discuss trade issues. It's not that Pakistan does not want trade with India, but then Pakistan also has concerns on this issue," he said.

Responding to statements from New Delhi that Pakistan had not extended the same level of cooperation in fighting terrorism to India as it had to the U.S., Khan said: "Let the Indian delegation sit across the table and talk about these things."

Saying that these subjects could not be discussed through the media, the envoy added: "We'll find out what cooperation they (the Indian side) need and what cooperation Pakistan can (extend) or has extended."

He said Islamabad had taken all the action promised against leaders of the Lashker-e-Taiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammad.

"You just can't put people behind bars just for the sake of putting them behind bars. If there is some evidence against somebody, then action can be taken," he said, pointing out that Pakistan's record of cooperating with the international community on terrorism was "impeccable".

The envoy admitted that progress in the peace process, which was kicked off by Vajpayee on April 18 in a speech in Srinagar, had been a "little slow".

But he asserted that that the pre-December 13, 2001, position - when the Indian Parliament was attacked - could be restored in "one go". That is, resumption of transport links between the two countries as well as staff strengths in the two High Commissions.

Khan said the embassy could not cater to visa requests because it just did not have enough staff. Pakistan had offered the restoration of rail links. "... Four months have passed... All we have done is just to have high commissioners in place and (resume) the bus service."

On the issue of resuming air links, he said: "We feel this is an issue, which needs to be discussed because it has harmed commercial activities of the two airlines (PIA and Indian Airlines)... Again this is a technical issue, and we might as well leave it to the technical people to discuss."

Technical level talks on the issue have been scheduled on August 27 and 28 in Islamabad.

He said Pakistan had "certain views" about overflights but there was no problem in resuming air links. "The two issues have become separate. They are not really linked issues. Air links can be restored immediately."

Referring to the much-publicised visit of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam chief Fazalur Rehman to India, Khan said he would classify it as part of the Track II dialogue that had been going on.

First Published: Aug 26, 2003 21:11 IST