The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Delhi develops taste for Kashmir on table
Aziz to read political pulse

New Delhi, Nov. 22: On the eve of Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz's visit, South Block appears to have come out with a new coinage ' 'flexibility with realism' ' to resolve outstanding issues between the two countries and carry forward the peace process.

Aziz, who arrives tomorrow afternoon in what will be his first visit to India as Prime Minister, is coming here as the outgoing chairperson of Saarc. But Pakistani officials claimed he would also look at ways to normalise relations between the neighbours.

Indications suggest Delhi will be upfront about a discussion on Kashmir which will reflect 'the reality and the ground situation'. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had recently made it clear in Srinagar that there will be no redrawing of India's boundary, nor would Delhi support any proposal for another partition in the subcontinent on religious lines.

He had also hinted that Delhi was willing to consider political and economic autonomy for Kashmiris while supporting any move for a 'soft border' between the two Kashmirs. His remarks were seen as the UPA government's formal response to some proposals of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf last month to resolve the Kashmir dispute.

Musharraf had suggested that Jammu and Kashmir (including the part in Pakistan's possession) be carved into seven regions and demilitarised as a prelude to letting them choose their rulers.

Singh's remarks have not gone down well with Musharraf who has made public his disappointment. But Indian officials said the onus was now on Pakistan to show whether it was willing to continue with the peace process.

Apart from holding talks with his Indian counterpart, Aziz will meet most top members of the Indian leadership during his two-day stay. Meetings are lined up with UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam. Foreign minister K. Natwar Singh and petroleum minister Mani Shankar Aiyar will meet him tomorrow. Aziz will also hold talks with former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and leader of the Opposition L.K. Advani on Thursday.

That Aziz would meet Opposition leaders shows that Pakistan is trying to assess whether there is consensus in India on continuing with the peace process.

Pakistani officials said they were not 'too worried' about Singh's statements in Srinagar. 'It will be stressed by Prime Minister Aziz during his talks with Indian leaders to ensure that the two sides do not do anything that will negate the achievements of the past year,' an official said.

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