The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Poll or no poll, Agra still hurts

New Delhi, Aug. 29: Even if the Jammu and Kashmir elections are peaceful, India is unlikely to rush into an “Agra-type” summit between Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

Any movement, if at all, towards the talks-table will take place only after the general elections in Pakistan are through in October, and that too, at the level of foreign secretaries.

India is still smarting under its decision to invite Musharraf for the summit in Agra last summer. Not only did the Pakistani President not show any signs of accommodation that could have led the two sides to come out with a joint declaration, his inflexible stand on Kashmir finally led to the further deterioration of ties.

Having burnt its finger once, Delhi has decided to tread carefully on the Musharraf path in future.

Among other things, it rules out the possibility of a meeting between Vajpayee and Musharraf on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, beginning September 11. Both the leaders will be there to address the UNGA and meet US President George W. Bush. But the two South Asian neighbours are not expected to meet each other in New York.

At the moment, India does not see any forward movement from Pakistan that will help create an atmosphere for lowering of tension in South Asia and revive the stalled dialogue.

Musharraf’s interview to the BBC today has dashed all hopes, if any were there in the first place, for further steps towards de-escalation in the region.

“We cannot fail to note that his declaration to the BBC that he has not given any timeframe to the international community with regard to stopping infiltration across the Line of Control is coming in the wake of the visit of US deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage to Islamabad,” foreign ministry spokesperson Nirupama Rao said.

She added: “General Musharraf continues to play with contradictions by, on the one hand, saying that there is nothing happening across the Line of Control and, on the other hand, admitting that infiltration continues by what he describes as ‘rogue elements’.”

The spokesperson said Musharraf’s statement suggests that “he will end infiltration only when he finds it opportune; in other words, Pakistan will continue to use terrorism as an instrument of state policy”.

Atal steers clear of Shabir

Vajpayee today said the political process to find a permanent solution to the Kashmir problem will continue even after the elections with the elected representatives as well as other key political figures.

Vajpayee urged the Kashmir Committee — an “unofficial” group — to ensure that those who have so far stayed away should be convinced to participate in the forthcoming elections.

Vajpayee met Kashmir Committee chairman Ram Jethmalani and other members of his team, but refused to give an audience to separatist leader Shabir Shah, who has decided against participating in the elections.

Jethmalani and the other members of the committee, however, met Shah.

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