The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
Email This Page
Atal cool to team on goodwill mission

New Delhi, May 8: The Prime Minister may be willing to give peace with Pakistan a last chance, but he is not yet ready to receive a delegation from the neighbour, not even the “unofficial” one that reached India today.

Amid a mixed reception at the Wagah border this morning, 13 parliamentarians from Pakistan stepped into India on a “goodwill mission”.

Though the organiser, India-Pakistan Forum for Peace and Friendship, made several attempts to get them an audience with Atal Bihari Vajpayee, neither Speaker Manohar Joshi nor the external affairs ministry showed any enthusiasm.

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi appeared as reluctant because she is yet to make any plans to meet them. Her party MP, Mani Shankar Aiyer, however, will meet the group tomorrow at the YMCA guesthouse here. As an IFS officer, Aiyer had served in Pakistan years ago.

The Left and non-Congress MPs, however, appeared enthusiastic about the visitors. CPM MP Somnath Chatterjee has organised a reception at his Ashoka Road home tomorrow, where former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda and other leaders are also expected.

Former Prime Minister I.K. Gujral and former Union coal and mines minister Ram Vilas Paswan will host separate dinner parties for the visitors.

The group is scheduled to visit Calcutta on May 13, where they will meet state Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim and other senior Left Front leaders.

Earlier, Shiv Sena supporters raised “anti-Pakistani” slogans while many others shouted “Hind-Pak dosti zindabad (Long live India-Pakistan friendship)” as the 13 parliamentarians — from across the political spectrum — stepped over the Red Cliff at Wagah carrying banners which read “Open the Way for Peace” in Urdu.

Email This Page