New Delhi, June 11: In an attempt to keep the peace process alive, India has agreed to hold talks with Pakistan next week on the resumption of the Delhi-Lahore bus service.
A technical team from the Pakistan tourism ministry is scheduled to arrive here on June 18 for a three-day discussion with Indians, who will be led by representatives from the Delhi Transport Corporation.
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had taken the decision to resume the bus service on the eve of his three-nation tour last month. The move was seen as part of New Delhi’s attempt to earn international brownie points by sending the message that it was keen to keep the peace initiative on track despite the lack of response from Pakistan to Delhi’s queries on resuming air links.
Foreign ministry spokesperson Navtej Sarna said: “Pakistan proposed June 18, 19 and 20 for the visit of the technical team and these days are convenient for us.”
India had stopped the Delhi-Lahore bus service and snapped rail and air links with Pakistan after the terrorist attack on Parliament.
In a telephone conversation held in April, Vajpayee and his Pakistani counterpart Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali stressed on taking measures to improve people-to-people contact between the two countries. The revival of the bus service was one such measure that was discussed.
However, despite India’s keenness, Pakistan has so far not shown any interest in resuming air links. Indications suggest that Samjhauta Express — the only rail link between the two sides — can only be revived after Islamabad responds favourably on restarting air service.
At the meeting, officials said, the two sides will discuss details of the date of resuming the bus service and also how many days in a week it should run.
Former ministers, retired diplomats and military officials of the two countries are meeting in Kathmandu as part of another Track II diplomacy to build the right atmosphere in which the peace process can succeed.
The meeting, which begins on Friday, will be attended by a host of former foreign ministers and foreign secretaries from India and Pakistan, including Inam-ul-Haque, Sartaj Aziz, Moinuddin Haidar, Niaz Naik, Satinder Lamba and M.K. Rasgotra.
“The conclave is part of atmosphere-building without which confidence-building measures like the one proposed by the political leadership of India and Pakistan will not succeed,” Ashok Mehta, a retired general who is part of the Indian delegation, said.
Attempts will be made to delve into the “twists and turns, ups and downs in Indo-Pak relations starting from the Kargil conflict to the present phase of the peace initiative,” he added.
“It will be an attempt to deconstruct and demystify the reasons which led to the Kargil conflict and the post-Parliament attack troop build-up on both sides. We will also get first-hand information about what Pakistani military thought about these developments,” Mehta said.
The Indian and Pakistani ambassadors in Nepal have also been invited to attend the meeting.
When the conclave comes to a close, a road map for peace will be submitted to the foreign secretaries in New Delhi and Islamabad.