The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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US Track II derailed

New Delhi, Oct. 21: A private US effort to bring India and Pakistan back to the talks table has been grounded after the external affairs ministry rejected third-party involvement in normalising bilateral relations.

The US bid was not the Bush administration’s directly, but that of the Pugwash Organisation, a prestigious outfit set up with private funds that won the Nobel peace prize in 1995. It is known for encouraging “Track II” diplomacy between the two hostile neighbours.

A number of former Indian and Pakistani diplomats, bureaucrats and senior military officials were to participate in the four-day workshop in Goa from October 30.

Several westerners, including Pugwash secretary-general Paolo Cotta-Ramusino, an Italian mathematics professor, were also invited.

Pugwash “indefinitely” postponed the South Asian security workshop after the external affairs ministry decided not to issue visas to the participants.

“Third parties often have their agenda and priorities and want to sometimes artificially push for dialogue on issues that suit their agenda,” ministry spokesperson Navtej Sarna said.

But he emphasised that Pugwash could continue its efforts at maintaining informal contact between the two sides outside India. “No definition of Track II stipulates that such contacts, midwifed by third parties, should take place only on Indian soil,” he said.

Officials pointed out this did not mean all Pakistanis were being denied visas to India. Noted Pakistani singer Abida Parveen is scheduled to arrive in Delhi within days and former cricket captain Wasim Akram is already here, they said.

Delhi clarified it was focussed on issues that would help build people-to-people contact as part of its willingness to take steps “progressively” to restore normal bilateral relations.

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