The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pak mission for small steps

New Delhi, March 13: Restoring peace between the two hostile neighbours may be his ultimate goal, but the new charge d’affaires of the Pakistan high commission, Munawar Bhatti, is not thinking big right now.

Bhatti’s emphasis, instead, is on small steps crucial for paving the way to normalising the ties between Delhi and Islamabad.

“We are professional diplomats, trained to make the best of a bad situation,” Bhatti said. “At the moment, I am trying to look for a silver lining in the ties between India and Pakistan.”

This morning, he went to South Block on a “courtesy call” and met Arun Singh, joint secretary in the foreign ministry’s PAI (Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran) division. While exchanging pleasantries with Arun — with whom he would have to interact frequently — Bhatti outlined some of the “small steps”.

One of these was the release of 286 Pakistani fishermen and 45 of their boats seized by Indian security forces. Bhatti also wanted both sides to “reactivate” the mechanism for the release of civilian prisoners — the people who inadvertently strayed into the other country or those who overstayed without authorisation.

According to Bhatti, there are 400-odd Pakistani civilian prisoners in Indian custody and around 100 Indian prisoners in Pakistan. “These are innocent people and we should take immediate steps for their release,” he said.

Bhatti also sought India’s cooperation in finalising the “assignment visas” — the formal approval from the host government for officials and diplomats to be posted in the mission.

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