| Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee at a meeting in New Delhi on Monday. (AFP)
New Delhi, May 5: Foreign minister Yashwant Sinha will meet US secretary of state Colin Powell in Moscow later this month for talks that assume significance in the wake of India’s and Pakistan’s recent efforts to normalise relations.
Both Sinha and Powell will be in the Russian capital on separate bilateral visits. But as they will be in Moscow at the same time, they have decided to meet each other on May 14 to discuss a number of bilateral and regional issues of importance.
This will be their first meeting since Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s gesture of conciliation to Pakistan. They had spoken to each other last week after Vajpayee announced Delhi’s decision to appoint a high commissioner to Islamabad and restore civil aviation links with Pakistan on a reciprocal basis.
Sinha today spoke to his Iranian counterpart Kamal Kharrazi and discussed the situation in the region in the wake of the Prime Minister’s peace initiative. The Iranian foreign minister, who called up Sinha, expressed happiness at the steps taken by Vajpayee.
Outgoing US ambassador Robert Blackwill met the foreign minister this afternoon to discuss the situation as well as the forthcoming visit of US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage to South Asia.
Armitage is arriving in the region tomorrow. The US official will start his visit from Sri Lanka and then go to Islamabad for talks with President Pervez Musharraf, Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali and other senior leaders. After a day ‘s trip to Kabul, he will arrive in Delhi on May 9.
The deputy secretary of state is scheduled to hold talks with the Indian leadership between Friday and Saturday, focusing mainly on steps that could lead to early resumption of dialogue between India and Pakistan.
By the time Armitage arrives in Delhi, he should have a fair idea of what the Indian leadership expects from Pakistan to keep up the momentum for peace.
This is because the deputy secretary of state is likely to meet India’s national security adviser, Brajesh Mishra, in London on his way to South Asia. The two leaders’ paths will cross, with Mishra on way to the US to hold talks with the American leadership.
With the ground already prepared, the Moscow meeting between Sinha and Powell will, therefore, provide the two leaders an opportunity to tie up loose ends, if any, and keep the current peace initiatives on track.
“They will be making use of the opportunity to discuss bilateral relations naturally as well as other developments,” foreign ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna said.
Vajpayee’s peace initiative and developments since then would come up for discussions, the spokesman added.
Vajpayee has made it clear in Parliament that his initiative was “decisive and the last chance” for Pakistan to give up its compulsive hostility towards India. This point will be stressed by Sinha during his meeting with Powell to ensure that Washington, which has been trying to bring the neighbours back to the talks table, uses whatever leverage it has over Islamabad to stop cross-border terrorism.