New Delhi, July 7: Pakistan high commissioner Aziz Ahmed Khan will present his credentials before President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam on Thursday, the day his Indian counterpart, Shiv Shankar Menon, is scheduled to arrive in Islamabad.
Menon, who today wound up his duties as Indian envoy to China, will present his credentials by the next week.
The arrival of the two high commissioners is being seen in diplomatic circles as a development that is likely to give a major push to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s peace initiative with Pakistan.
Vajpayee and his Pakistan counterpart, Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, have spoken over the phone in May and decided to undertake a number of confidence-building measures that will improve people-to-people contact between the two countries.
“It is working very well and is progressing according to expectations,” a senior foreign ministry official said. He pointed out that from the beginning, India had been insisting on a step-by-step approach and the ground covered in the last two months showed that this was moving according to plans.
The Delhi-Lahore bus service is likely to resume from July 11. This was announced by the Pakistan envoy at a meeting of Indian and Pakistani businessmen here this morning. Khan said Pakistan has decided to accept the Indian proposal that the service should start from July 11. Islamabad’s decision has been formally conveyed to Delhi, he said.
The peace initiative is also supported by delegations of parliamentarians, businessmen and youths from the two countries having visited each other.
The negotiations on re-establishing the civil aviation links — with landing and over-flight rights — are also expected to begin in the next few days.
This may be described as a modest beginning by some, but many feel that this is the right approach rather than rushing into talks at the summit level, which has had a history of failure more than success in bilateral relations between the two.
But this did not stop the high commissioner designate of Pakistan from giving yet another call for resuming the dialogue between the two sides. “We should have the composite dialogue to tackle all outstanding issues between the two countries, including that of Jammu and Kashmir.”
Khan stressed that according to Pakistan, “a peaceful and secure environment in the region is imperative for promotion of meaningful economic cooperation and development”.
But Khan’s assertion notwithstanding, India has insisted that to show its sincerity, Islamabad should take urgent steps in two areas — combating cross-border-terrorism and normalising trade relations with Delhi.
The Saarc senior officials’ meeting in Kathmandu from Wednesday, which will be attended by the foreign secretaries of the seven South Asian nations, will give the first indication on whether Pakistan is showing some signs of progress on the trade front or not. Indications were that Islamabad might remove 73 items from its negative list as a first step to normalise trade relations.