13 May 2003
INDIA FIRST IN NAMING ITS ENVOY TO PAKISTAN
From Jal Khambata
NEW DELHI: India on Tuesday announced appointment of Shiv Shankar Menon, a career diplomat and Ambassador to China, as its new High Commissioner to Pakistan, saying he would take up the new assignment "shortly." Pakistan is slow in reciprocating.
The Pakistan Government had agreed last week to accept Menon under a dimplomatic exercise that is undertaken with the host country before appointing the envoy but it has not yet sounded a name to reciprocate by appointing its High Commissioner in Delhi.
India had recalled its High Commissioner Vijay K Nambiar in protest of the Pakistan-sponsored terrorist attack on Parliament on December 13, 2001 while also cutting off rail, road and air links between the two countries and Pakistan had done the same in retaliation.
Appointment of the High Commissioner was one of the three decisions announced by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in Parliament on May 2, besides "reciprocal" restoration of air links and implementation of SAARC decisions on trade and economic coopertion.
PAK HOLDS BACK NAME: Pakistan's Foreign Office spokesman Aziz Ahmad Khan on Monday said no decision had yet been taken on who will be its High Commissioner in Delhi, though the matter was under consideration. Urging the media to avoid indulging in "kite-flying," he said Basant festival was long over, but apparently kite flying was being indulged in with enthusiasm. The name will be announced as soon as decided, he added.
He was also quite emphatic that Pakistan will not agree to "freeze" the Kashmir issue in preference to economic and commercial relations in any possible future talks on normalisation of relations with India. He stressed that there would be a composite talk where all contentious issues, topped by Jammu and Kashmir as the core issue, would be taken up together by both sides. He explained that a step-by-step approach to the expected talks implied that the issues would be discussed at various tiers by officials.
READY FOR TRADE: Though official reaction on trade relations is yet to come from Islamabad, its commerce minister Humayun Akhtar told BBC radio in an interview on Monday that Pakistan is ready to do trade with India on the bilateral level as well as under the SAARC umbrella as soon as dialogue between the two countries begins.
Akhtar, known for his hard-line stance and ever since he took charge of Commerce Ministry last year, had earlier ruled out the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India and any other trade concessions under SAARC until India resumed talks with Pakistan on Kashmir issue.
Pakistan's Information and Broadcasting Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad told BBC that "our roadmap is already in place and we want to hold dialogue on all issues and let us see that what will be discussed initially or later on." He, however, stressed that the focal point will remain Kashmir. The original point is that, all the outstanding issues should be discussed including the core issue of Kashmir, he added.
PM SAYS INDIA PUTTING NO CONDITIONS: On arriving in Manali, a holiday retreat in Himachal hills, on Tueday for a six-day vacation, the Prime Minister ruled out any immediate talks with Pakistan and that too unconditionally as Islamabad wants. He, however, stressed that "we are not putting any conditions, but a climate to hold the parleys should be created."
"It is essential that cross-border terrorism must end. Without that, how can a climate for talks be created," Vajpayee remarked, adding that not only should cross-border terrorism be ended, but the training camps and terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan must also be dismantled.
INFILTRATION DOWN: In Bangalore, Defence Minister Fernandes on Tuesday claimed that infiltration of militants from across the border with Pakistan has come down. "I have always said that infiltration has its ups and downs. At the moment, it is looking down and that does not mean tomorrow, it may not go up," Fernandes told reporters.
Stressing that no timeframe can be set for restoring normalcy, Fernandes said the confidence-building measures with Pakistan were being undertaken at the moment. "The roadmap is being done now and it (normalcy) will take time. Nobody can fix a time for it," he said.
AMERICAN OFFER: Meanwhile, the United States once again offered to help both India and Pakistan in quickly restoring peace.
"As we have said many times before, and Deputy Secretary (Richard) Armitage underscored during his visit, peace in the region, whether it is in Afghanistan or whether it is between India and Pakistan or whether in Nepal or in Sri Lanka, will be achieved through efforts of governments and people of South Asia, and the United States (is) ready to assist South Asians in their efforts, as they may request," State Department spokesman Phil Reeker said on Monday.
India's Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha who reached Moscow on Tuesday is slated to meet his American counterpart Secretary of State Colin Powell there on Wednesday to further continue the talks he held in Delhi last week with US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage on the terrorism coming in the way of relations between India and Pakistan.
Sinha will be in Russia for six days and leave for London on Sunday to attend a Commonwealth meet.
SAARC IN ISLAMABAD: Meanwhile, Pakistan has proposed to convene the 12th SAARC summit in Islamabad in the first half of December, Pakistani daily Dawn reported on Tuesday quoting informed government sources.
The proposal was officially communicated to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation's secretariat in Kathmandu shortly after Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Jamali Khan unveiled confidence-building measures with India last week, a senior official involved in the Saarc process told Dawn.
The Saarc secretary-general will communicate proposed dates to all member states for their consent. The summit was initially slated for Jan 11 to 13 in Islamabad but it had to be postponed owing to non-confirmation of participation by India and Bhutan.
The 12th summit was not the first to be postponed. Two summits were postponed before, one in 1991 and the other in 1999.
The last Saarc summit scheduled for November 1999 in Kathmandu had to be put off till January 2002 because India refused to share the platform with President General Pervez Musharraf who had assumed power as the country's chief executive through a military coup a few days before the summit.
The Pakistani daily said the 12th Saarc summit as the first tacit test of the genuineness of the Indian leadership's recent peace overtures. However, recent statements emanating from India's ministry of external affairs that measures announced by Pakistan were "inadequate" make analysts in Pakstan suspicious about the Indian motives.