Pak, India Were Close To J&K Solution: Niaz Naik
31 July 2003
The Times of India
Islamabad: Pakistan and India were very close to reaching an agreement on the Kashmir issue after the Lahore Declaration but certain events, which followed pushed them back to square one, former Pakistani diplomat Niaz A Naik has said. The events took swift turns when a very important one-on-one meeting was held between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Indian counterpart Atal Behari Vajpayee during the latter's historic bus visit to Lahore in February 1999, the former High Commissioner to India told the Pakistan Observer newspaper in an interview. Though the Lahore Declaration had been inked, Naik said this exclusive meeting alone set the ball rolling on the fast track. Both the leaders committed to each other to break the deadlock on Kashmir and resolve the issue once and for all. They agreed to open a quiet channel on one agenda - the Kashmir dispute - that has already hurt both the countries in all spheres of life. It was further decided not to involve official machinery in the secret talks to avoid controversies, he said. A ten-month timeframe was decided for the permanent solution of Kashmir issue before the advent of new millennium. He said Sharif secretly nominated his principal secretary, late Anwar Zahid, for the proposed talks while Vajpayee selected a low profile close friend R K Misra, a journalist and a businessman to take on the task. On February 28, Sharif rang up Vajpayee informing him that he was ready to receive Misra in Islamabad to initiate talks with Zahid. They both met in Islamabad and talked on modalities of the dialogues. Misra went back with some substance.