The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sinha Moscow mission

New Delhi, May 12: Foreign minister Yashwant Sinha is going to Moscow tomorrow to brief the Russian leadership on the peace initiative with Pakistan and will meet US secretary of state Colin Powell in the city.

Sinha, who is ostensibly going to Moscow to attend the annual meeting of Indo-Russian Joint Commission, will meet Powell on May 14. Powell will be in Russia around the same time and the two have decided to take the opportunity to meet there.

On May 18, Sinha will fly to London for the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group meeting, which will decide whether Pakistan will be brought back into the multilateral body.

The Sinha-Powell meeting will give the two sides another opportunity of taking forward some of the discussions the Indian leadership had recently with Powell’s deputy, Richard Armitage, in Delhi. The overall thrust will be on the peace process between India and Pakistan.

He will try to impress upon the US secretary of state that the Indian peace initiative may be a last chance for Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to improve relations with India. He will stress that to ensure the process undertaken by Delhi remains on track it is imperative for Islamabad to take urgent steps — both visible and viable — to dismantle its terror apparatus.

Delhi has already made it clear to Armitage that Washington should use whatever leverage it has over Pakistan, especially its economic influence, to ensure that the right atmosphere for the resumption of talks between the two sides is created by stopping infiltration across the Line of Control and violence in Kashmir.

Sinha will meet a host of Russian leaders, including Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov. He will also meet his Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov and finance minister Alexi Kudrin. He will discuss defence cooperation between India and Russia with newly-appointed deputy Prime Minister Andrei Ilyashin.

The series of meetings that the foreign minister has lined up shows that, though the joint commission that Sinha and Russia’ science and technology minister Ilya Klebanov co-chair will review trade and economic cooperation, he will utilise this visit to discuss other political developments with the Russian leadership.

Sinha will get a chance to interact with members of the country’s leading think tanks in St. Petersburg, where he is likely to spend two days.

Though issues like Iraq and the impact of war in the region, as well as the proposal to revive the West Asia peace process, may come up for discussion, the main thrust will be on the initiative taken by India to improve ties with Pakistan.

The foreign minister’s view will give Russian intellectuals a clear picture of what India proposes to normalise relations with its hostile western neighbour and cool down the temperature in volatile South Asia.

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