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Jamali’s peace meal spoils Delhi palate

Islamabad/New Delhi, May 6: For the first time since Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee extended a hand of friendship again towards Pakistan, stimulating a wave of hope and conciliatory noises on either side, the poison in the relationship bubbled up today.

India greeted Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali’s much-awaited announcement of reciprocal confidence-building measures as “completely inadequate”.

Jamali earlier declared resumption of air, rail and bus links and restoration of full strength at the missions in each other’s capitals, including naming a high commissioner.

At a news conference, he said: “Pakistan condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and would continue to cooperate with the international community to eliminate this scourge.”

That was his only reference to terrorism which Delhi found disappointing. Official sources said: “Pakistan has tried to go back to the pre-December 13 (when the attack on Parliament took place) position but has said nothing against terrorism.”

“It is not conceivable to go back to the pre-December 13 position without doing something tangible on cross-border terrorism,” they added.

The sources also said Jamali had mentioned restoration of air links but made no reference to allowing overflights. “This is an indication of a mindset which is not very positive,” they said.

Jamali said Pakistan supported the confidence-building measures outlined in the memorandum of understanding signed during Vajpayee’s visit to Lahore in February 1999.

“We would pick up the (talks) from Agra,” he said in reference to General Pervez Musharraf’s visit in July 2001.

Before the announcements, Jamali had held an all-party meeting last night.

He said Pakistan was placing 78 additional items on the positive list where trade can be conducted at concessional rates of duty to give an impetus to commerce within Saarc, the South Asian grouping.

“It is my hope that this will clear the way for a more meaningful Saarc role for the promotion of regional trade,” he said.

But this, too, fell short of Delhi’s expectations. Sources said that one of the main reasons for refusing to attend the Saarc summit in Islamabad was Pakistan’s refusal to have normal trade relations with India.

They explained that the trade concessions Jamali made today were the same that Pakistan had decided to give much before the Kathmandu Saarc summit of 2001. There is nothing in his statement to suggest Pakistan is moving towards normal trade relations with India to create a situation which could lead to a preferential trade agreement and a free trade area in South Asia.

Jamali announced: “We will soon approach the secretary-general, Saarc, to ascertain the convenience of the member states for convening the 12th Saarc summit in Islamabad well before the end of the current year.”

He expected discussions on the nuclear issue as well.

“We hope that a reconvened dialogue will enable us to conclude substantive and result-oriented measures for arms restraint and promotion of security in our region.”

In Islamabad’s view, the resumed talks could take place at different tiers, including at the summit level. And Jamali is ready to talk to deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani.

“I do not mind talking to Advani and in fact I won’t face any problems in talking to him as we can converse much with ease in the Sindhi language,” he said.

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