Top aides to hold talks on Kashmir: Quiet meetings planned
12 September 2004
New Delhi: Indian National Security Adviser Jyotindra Nath Dixit, engaged in back-channel diplomacy with his Pakistani counterpart Tariq Aziz, has been given Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's full authority to probe viable solutions to end the Kashmir dispute , well-placed Indian sources told Dawn on Sunday. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the usually authoritative sources said a series of quiet meetings have been planned between the two officials, who met in Amritsar two months ago, at least once. Mr Dixit has 'the prime minister's total support to conduct talks with his Pakistani number on everything, including the Kashmir issue', a source confided. Indian media were replete with speculation on Sunday about the schedule between Mr Dixit and Mr Aziz. The Times of India said the two had held secret discussions during the last two days but admitted that it could not officially confirm any recent meeting. The Indian Express too was equally speculative, saying 'but both have reportedly also met again since, in other cities'. The Express said that since the two Foreign Ministers, Kunwar Natwar Singh and Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, have just promised to take ahead the dialogue on key issues, including Siachen, the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus across the Line of Control and an overland gas pipeline through Pakistan that would begin in Iran and end in India, these could be the subjects for the Dixit-Aziz meetings to wrap up. All newspapers that reported the arriving meeting, or the already held secret conclaves, said these were meant to prepare the grounds for Dr Singh's meetings with President Pervez Musharraf in New York later this month. When contacted by the Hindustan Times on Saturday, Mr Dixit did not deny 'the logical phenomenon' of such meetings. The newspaper said both India and Pakistan had reached an understanding to keep the composite dialogue process on track till the autumn of 2005 while they try to clear roadblocks on issues like Kashmir through back-channel negotiations. 'A back-channel meeting between National Security Adviser J.N. Dixit and his Pakistani interlocutor Tariq Aziz is on the cards. They will also oversee implementation of the promises made,' the Hindustan Times said. It quoted Indian 'official circles' as expressing the worry that 'each time there is a possibility of back-channel meetings' it faces apparently 'calculated attempts by a section of the establishment in Pakistan to undermine confidential exchange' between the two countries.