The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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PM asks Pervez to dinner date

New Delhi, Sept. 9: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has invited Pervez Musharraf to dinner in New York on September 14 to ensure that the peace process stays on track.

The meeting ' on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly ' will take place at the New York Palace Hotel, where Singh will be staying.

In Rawalpindi today, Musharraf told the AFP news agency: “I feel there’s optimism on both sides (in the run-up to his meeting with Singh). There’s a positive response towards resolution of the dispute (Kashmir) on both sides. We need to achieve this within our tenures. That’s the timeframe.”

Delhi, however, refused to set any such “artificial” timeframe. Foreign secretary Shyam Saran, when asked to comment on the Pakistan President’s remarks, said: “I am sure that the Prime Minister will also reaffirm India’s commitment to peace with Pakistan when he meets President Musharraf. But I don’t want to say anything more before the two leaders meet.”

Such meetings between heads of government are not rare: US President George W. Bush had twice invited Atal Bihari Vajpayee, when he was Prime Minister, to his hotel, Waldorf-Astoria.

This will be the second meeting between Musharraf and Singh in less than six months. They had met in April at a summit in New Delhi, where both pledged not to let the terrorism and violence hobble the peace process.

It remains to be seen what new measures the two leaders can come up with after their meeting to strengthen trust between the two countries and keep the dialogue on track for some more time.

Saran, during his meeting with his Pakistani opposite number Riaz Mohammed Khan in Islamabad earlier this month, had made it clear that peace and violence cannot go together. He had said Pakistan would have to do more to completely stop cross-border terrorism from its soil.

When the Prime Minister meets Musharraf, he may again raise the subject of infiltration and cross-border violence.

The two sides have already announced the third round of their composite dialogue ' scheduled to begin early next year with a clear suggestion of going on till July. Both countries have also agreed to allow trucks to run between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad as part of their policy to bring the two Kashmirs together.

The bus service between the two cities is likely to be made more frequent. Similar bus services between other points across the Line of Control are also being discussed.

At their meeting in New York, the two leaders may also come out with an announcement on Siachen and Sir Creek to signal their commitment to the peace process.

Last week, Saran had said that though there could be no “territorial adjustments” to settle the Kashmir dispute, India is committed to finding a final solution acceptable to both countries.

“We want to reach the final destination. But at the moment, we don’t know what that destination will be,” he said.

Till a solution is found, however, steps must be taken to reduce the impact of the division of Kashmir among the people of the state.

“This is the manner in which you can create a virtuous circle and I think that process is taking place,” he said.

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