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Cold Delhi sends out unwelcome message

New Delhi, Sept. 15: Unwilling to give Pakistan a chance to extract propaganda mileage, India today said there is no need for any senior leader to come to Delhi for inviting Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to next year’s Saarc summit in Islamabad.

Delhi has formally accepted the invitation and announced its participation in the summit, scheduled to be held between January 4 and 6.

“It is not as if under the Saarc charter or on the basis of established practice personal handing over of invitation is required,” foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal said. “It is a different matter that x, y or z may choose to do so. But this is not a requirement.”

Sibal’s words, in response to a question on whether Pakistan foreign minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri was planning to come to Delhi, made it clear that the Pakistani leader would be an “unwelcome guest”. Kasuri, who has already visited some South Asian countries, had indicated he would like to come to Delhi to invite Vajpayee.

“There is no need to reinforce the invitation by any personal invitation since the dates of the summit and the invitation to attend it were already there,” the foreign secretary added.

Sibal also made it clear there was no possibility of a meeting between Vajpayee and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session, slated to begin in less than a week in New York.

The foreign secretary’s words indicate that though Delhi would continue taking steps to ensure that the peace process with Pakistan does not get stalled, it would not return to the talks table till Islamabad seriously addresses its main concern, cross-border terrorism.

However, a meeting between Kasuri and his Indian counterpart Yashwant Sinha would take place in New York, though as part of an informal interaction involving all the foreign ministers of the Saarc countries.

Pakistan has so far made no formal request for a visit by Kasuri to Delhi. But South Block’s tough stand, which makes it clear it is not willing to entertain any such request if Pakistan were to make it, stems from the anticipation that the foreign minister might try to get the maximum propaganda mileage out of his visit.

If India allows him to come here and personally invite Vajpayee, he might describe the meeting with the Prime Minister as the beginning of the stalled dialogue between the two countries. He could once again raise the Kashmir issue which India does not want, especially before the UN General Assembly.

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