The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sinha sees win-win in peace push

New Delhi, Oct. 24: Foreign minister Yashwant Sinha has said India is in a “win-win” situation regarding the Prime Minister’s latest conciliatory measures towards Pakistan and his decision to have L.K. Advani talk to the All Parties Hurriyat Conference.

Briefing the members of the BJP’s foreign affairs cell, Sinha reportedly said all the 12 conciliatory gestures Atal Bihari Vajpayee had made were aimed at strengthening people-to-people relations. The measures include starting a bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, beginning a ferry service to Karachi and treating Pakistani patients in Indian hospitals.

“If goodwill is created among people as a result of these measures, then ultimately the administration will be forced to review its attitude to India. People’s pressure cannot be ignored by any administration,” a BJP member quoted Sinha as saying.

Sources said the minister described Vajpayee’s move as a “well thought-out political strategy” and said India stood to gain whether Pakistan accepts the measures or not. “If the Pakistan President (Pervez Musharraf) turns them down, he will be cornered by the international community. If he accepts them, it will be a feather in India's cap,” they said.

Sinha said a delegation of former judges and advocates wishing to visit Pakistan had been denied visas. He said: “This attitude shows how the establishment is against people-to-people relations.”

But not every member of the BJP cell was satisfied with the briefing.

Some were sceptical, saying: “…the massing of troops on the border following the (December 2001) attack on Parliament fizzled out without any positive gains for India.” Others asked why the announcement had been made on the eve of Assembly elections.

To this, Sinha said Delhi had succeeded in “putting pressure” on Islamabad by stationing troops on the border. He added that the decision to normalise ties had been “appreciated” by most sections as a “welcome experiment”; only a few hardliners had opposed the move.

The minister said the decision had not been announced with an eye on the elections.

Sinha said the decision to get deputy Prime Minister Advani to speak to the Hurriyat was a “clever move” since the conglomerate was insisting it would talk only to Vajpayee or Advani.

“It is a clever move designed to split the Hurriyat,” a foreign cell member said.

“If Hurriyat remains within the framework of the Constitution and wishes to talk, why should anyone object' We are clear it will not be a tripartite exercise involving Pakistan,” he added.

Sinha also said the Prime Minister would not hold talks with Musharraf even though he would attend January’s Saarc summit in Islamabad.

“The PM will go because we have to send a signal to Saarc countries which feel that the summits are not taking place because of India,” he is reported to have said.

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