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Delhi to wait and watch over Pak

New Delhi, Feb. 1: Delhi remains sceptical about signals from Islamabad on the eve of President Pervez Musharraf’s visit to Russia about possible moves to improve relations with India.

Let down by Pakistan several times in the past, South Block has adopted a wait-and-watch policy — it wants to see what the general has to offer this time that could break the stalemate and start the process of normalisation of ties.

Quoting sources in diplomatic circles in Islamabad, agencies said the immediate aim of the Pakistan President, who starts his Moscow visit from Tuesday, could be to send a message to Delhi through the Russian leadership that he was ready for a patch-up.

Delhi’s initial reaction to the report has not been encouraging. Foreign ministry officials pointed out that many times in the past Islamabad had raised hopes of adopting a conciliatory approach to break the ice, but nothing came of it. Moreover, so far there has been nothing to suggest that the Pakistani establishment is serious about addressing India’s primary concern — cross-border terrorism.

While India waits to see what new offer Musharraf makes, indications are that Delhi is in no mood to give up pushing for international pressure on Pakistan. Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani today expressed disappointment over the US’ failure to force Pakistan to stop infiltration across the Line of Control.

“We expect countries which have sworn to fight terrorism not to help any state which patronises terrorism directly or indirectly, financially or otherwise,” Advani said in Bangkok at the end of his visit to Thailand.

Advani’s remarks are in line with what Indian officials and South Block mandarins have been saying for several months now, both in private and public. In the post-September 11 scenario, India had expected the Bush administration to take a tougher stance on Pakistan. Initially, there were such indications, particularly when US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage told the Indian leadership that Musharraf had assured he would stop infiltration across the LoC.

Though this assurance was given nearly six months ago, not much has happened to encourage India into thinking that the Pakistan President was trying to honour his commitment. Over the past few months, senior Indian leaders and officials have been articulating their disappointment with the US for failing to put enough pressure on Pakistan to deliver.

The latest conciliatory gesture hinted at in today’s reports appears to be part of Pakistan’s strategy to ward off some of the pressure it is facing from the international community for not doing enough to stop militants operating from its soil. The Pakistani leadership is reported to have made a similar gesture through Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy during his recent visit to Islamabad.

Sources said the Musharraf regime assured to stop infiltration and hostile activities towards India, but Delhi was sceptical.

It may be interesting to see what Musharraf offers after discussions with the Russian leadership. Last summer, during an Asian security meet in Almaty, Russian President Vladimir Putin had invited both Musharraf and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to Moscow to defuse the growing tension between the nuclear neighbours. Though the offer was politely turned down by Vajpayee, there is a feeling that Moscow may not be averse to playing a role in normalising Indo-Pak relations.

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