New Delhi, Jan. 1: In an attempt at consensus-building within the government on the stand India should take with Pakistan during Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s visit there later this week, national security adviser Brajesh Mishra held an hour-long meeting with deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani yesterday.
The talks, prompted by the Prime Minister, gathers significance in view of a possible meeting between Vajpayee and President Pervez Musharraf.
Delhi has maintained that even if there is a meeting between the two, it will be more of a “courtesy call”. Nonetheless, there was an attempt to build an agreement at the highest level of leadership on India’s approach, should a meeting in Islamabad take place.
The Advani-Mishra talks assume significance in the context of the controversy that arose over the Agra summit. Within days of the summit failing, there were reports that Advani had saved India from being sold down the river on Kashmir with the obvious implication that it was Vajpayee who was doing the selling.
Later, an apparently peeved Prime Minister commented in Parliament that Advani was pacing anxiously up and down outside the room where the talks with Musharraf were taking place.
This time, too, there have been reports that Advani is opposed to a bilateral meeting.
Vajpayee will leave for Islamabad on Saturday to take part in the three-day Saarc summit beginning on January 4. Indian leaders have, however, continued with their ambiguous stand on possibilities of a bilateral meeting between the Prime Minister and the Pakistani leaders.
“There will be meetings. There will be a number of occasions for official meetings and meeting socially. Apart from that, there is no other meeting planned,” external affairs minister Yashwant Sinha said today.
Asked whether India will take the initiative for a meeting, Sinha said: “I am speaking as of 2 pm now. No such meeting has been planned.”
Pakistan has claimed that a meeting between Vajpayee and Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali has been set up for January 5.
Mishra, who usually accompanies the Prime Minister, left for Islamabad with Sinha and other senior ministry officials this afternoon, sparking speculation that he was going there to prepare the ground for a meeting.
Sinha said India wanted the current ceasefire with Pakistan to become permanent. “It is incumbent on both countries to ensure that the ceasefire holds.”