May 2001 News

PM invites Musharraf to India

23 May 2001
The Asian Age

New Delhi: Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee on Wednesday invited Pakistan Chief Executive General Pervez Musharraf for talks even as the Centre decided to withdraw the six-month ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir. The surprise decision to invite Gen. Musharraf was taken at Cabinet Committee on Security meeting at Mr Vajpayee’s residence. External affairs and defence minister Jaswant Singh told reporters after the meeting that a formal invitation to Gen. Musharraf will be delivered shortly. He said the offer of a dialogue with the Pakistan Chief Executive was in pursuance of the Lahore Declaration and the Shimla Agreement. “India is yet again offering the hand of friendship, reconciliation, cooperation and peace to Pakistan in the expectation that this opportunity shall be positively and purposefully utilised by them,” said Mr Singh. PMO officials said that before take the crucial decision, the Prime Minister had taken into confidence Leader of the Opposition Sonia Gandhi and other NDA partners. Mr Singh said the formal invitation to Gen. Musharraf to visit India at his convenience has been sent through Indian high commissioner to Pakistan Vijay Nambiar. Mr Singh said the proposed summit-level talks will focus on the eight-point composite agenda agreed to between the foreign secretaries of the two countries in Islamabad on June 23, 1997. As per the June 1997 agreement, New Delhi had agreed to talk Kashmir with Pakistan as the agreement between the foreign secretaries had set out an agenda and a mechanism for dialogue and spoke about the need to address all “outstanding issues.” Eight such issues were listed, and one of them was Jammu and Kashmir. India and Pakistan had a round of discussions on peace and security in Jammu and Kashmir in October 1998. The June 1997 framework suits Pakistan as it was then that New Delhi had recognised Kashmir as a dispute between the two nations. They had agreed to set up a separate working group on the core issue of Kashmir besides including various other groups to deal with outstanding issues. Committing itself to the peace process, the government also announced that the Centre’s mediator, Mr K.C Pant, will continue the effort to bring all parties to the negotiating table. “Our invitation to all sections in J&K to join this dialogue is reiterated,” Mr Singh said. In contrast with the talks offer, the government decided to withdraw the ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir. The truce was due to expire at the end of May. The government has put the blame for the end of the ceasefire on various terrorist groups which, it said, failed to follow the path of peace. “It was expected that various terrorist groups and organisations, mostly foreign, would see reason, and, recognising the imperatives of peace, dialogue and cooperation, shun violence. Regrettably, they have not,” said Mr Singh adding that “this phase is now over.” The government has now given full freedom to security forces to deal with terrorist groups operating in the Valley. “Hereafter, security forces shall take such action against terrorists as they judge best,” said Mr Singh. The Centre, however, claimed that during the ceasefire, announced on the eve of Ramzan last November, there was relative peace along the Line of Control.


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