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Symbolic Indo-Pak bilateral decided before summit

The Indian govt had decided in December that circumstances were right for a face-to-face meeting between Vajpayee and Musharraf at the SAARC summit in Islamabad.

india Updated: Jan 05, 2004 00:59 IST

The Indian government had decided in December that circumstances were right for a face-to-face meeting between Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf at the Saarc summit in Islamabad.

Just before he flew to Pakistan on January 1, national security advisor Brajesh Mishra briefed deputy prime minister L.K. Advani on the summit.

Mishra stressed the meeting would be largely ceremonial, without any substantive agenda.

The BJP government feels it would not be possible to go beyond that with Musharraf, especially a bilateral dialogue that includes Kashmir, until general elections are held.

In addition, New Delhi would prefer to wait until the spring, when the mountain passes along the Line of Control become usable, to see if Pakistan will continue its clamp down on infiltration.

India has been telling Western governments not to expect more than a "courtesy call" between the two South Asian leaders.

In fact, India referred to the meeting between Vajpayee and Jamali on Sunday as a "courtesy call". Monday's meeting with President Musharraf, scheduled to be held in the morning, too is likely to be described in a similar manner.

One Western diplomat said, "It's a moot question when a courtesy call becomes a bilateral." A bilateral would normally include a formal agenda, which will be lacking this time.

India may have held back on announcing the face-to-face because it wanted Pakistan to publicly declare its support for agreements on trade, terrorism and an extension of the ceasefire along the Line of Control.

First Published: Jan 05, 2004 00:59 IST