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Pervez stirs tea diplomacy

New Delhi, March 6: Few communists would let themselves be caught supping with dictators. But when generals themselves get up to serve tea, how many comrades can resist a sip'

CPM general secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet couldn't during his recent trip to Pakistan with his CPI counterpart A.B. Bardhan.

A courteous and thoughtful Pervez Musharraf, who invited them to tea on Tuesday, took extra care to make the 87-year-old CPM leader comfortable. As Surjeet ' who was visiting Pakistan for the first time after Partition ' found it difficult to make the tea, Musharraf rose from his seat, added the milk and the sugar, and offered the cup to the veteran communist.

Both leaders met the Pakistani President for the first time and liked his 'courteous' manners, notwithstanding their distaste for dictators.

Three communist parties in Pakistan ' the Communist Party of Pakistan, Mazdoor Kisan Communist Party and the National Workers' Party ' had invited the two Left leaders to seminars and discussions in Pakistan.

Their meeting with Musharraf was a convivial one. The general told the leaders that there was nothing about Pakistan they did not know and nothing about India that he did not know.

The President also heeded Surjeet's request and ordered the release of some Indians jailed in Pakistan on charges of illegal entry.

For Surjeet, the trip was not just about political diplomacy. It was also a journey to the past when he, in his youth, used to work in Lahore ' then a part of undivided Punjab ' as a political activist. 'Surjeet was greeted warmly wherever he went,' said Bardhan.

The CPM general secretary wanted to see cell number 3 in the Lahore fort jail where he was kept in solitary confinement during the national movement.

'We went there. But the cell had been demolished,' said Bardhan.

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