May 31: At the first hint of heat in exchange of rhetoric, the President of Pakistan tonight called not the current but the former Prime Minister of India.
Pervez Musharraf spoke to A.B. Vajpayee to seek his help in furthering the peace process, a few hours after the new Indian government issued its first statement critical of Pakistan.
Musharraf took time off to call Vajpayee, the architect of the Srinagar peace process that led to a breakthrough in India-Pakistan relations, despite being caught up in a bombing crisis in Karachi.
The President, who shared a good rapport with the former Prime Minister even at the height of tensions between the two countries, said Vajpayee should use his experience for the good of the people in India as well as to improve bilateral ties.
During the 15-minute conversation, both Musharraf and Vajpayee stressed that unnecessary statements should be avoided to preserve the peace process.
The reference to unnecessary statements came against the backdrop of India and Pakistan taking potshots at each other.
Delhi this evening admonished Islamabad for “deliberately” ignoring the intent of foreign minister Natwar Singh’s remarks on bilateral ties and trying to create a controversy. But it was quick to add that India remained committed to friendship and cooperation with Pakistan.
Since assuming office, Singh has been saying the 1972 Simla Agreement should be the bedrock for bilateral relations. He also suggested the two sides follow the Chinese model and keep the most contentious issue of Kashmir on the backburner till progress is made on trade and economic cooperation.
Islamabad has over the last few days iterated its well-known position that ties cannot be improved unless the Kashmir problem is resolved. Pakistani foreign minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri today urged Singh to avoid rhetoric on Kashmir and use statesmanship. “We should observe (a) rhetoric restraint regime to avoid misunderstanding…,” Kasuri said in a statement issued in Islamabad.
Indian foreign secretary Shashank clarified that the mention of the Simla pact did not mean subsequent agreements, especially the Lahore Declaration of February 1999 and the joint statement between Vajpayee and Musharraf earlier this year in Islamabad, will be ignored.