The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Musharraf man on secret trip

Islamabad/New Delhi, Sept. 10: A close confidant of Pervez Musharraf is in Delhi on a hush-hush visit to hold talks with India's powerful national security adviser, J.N. Dixit.

Tariq Aziz, the secretary to Pakistan's National Security Council, is believed to have flown into Delhi via Amritsar yesterday and was received at the airport by Dixit. The two left for some undisclosed destination near Delhi for talks, which, sources said, might be continuing today.

Delhi or Islamabad would not officially confirm the visit. 'Neither can I confirm the visit nor am I in a position to deny it' I think it is better to keep quiet,' foreign minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri, who too was in Delhi this week, said.

A Pakistani newspaper today reported Aziz's departure for India for what is considered to be the continuation of the backdoor diplomacy that had earlier paved the way for Atal Bihari Vajpayee's Islamabad visit for the Saarc summit in January this year.

Before that, Aziz had held several meetings with Vajpayee's aide and the then national security adviser, Brajesh Mishra, including the one in London in the last quarter of 2003. A former bureaucrat, Aziz has been acting as the right-hand man of Musharraf.

Observers believe Aziz's visit might be aimed at preparing the ground for the forthcoming meeting between Musharraf and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly later this month.

'The meeting will provide an opportunity to the two leaders to review the progress achieved so far in the dialogue process and set guidelines for future interactions,' an official told The Telegraph.

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz will also travel to Delhi by end-October or early November. Though he will visit India as the current chairman of Saarc, a meeting with Singh is only to be expected. The two leaders will meet again in Dhaka in January on the margins of the Saarc summit.

The Delhi meeting will take place ahead of another round of foreign secretary-level talks, scheduled for December, after the dialogue held in Islamabad ' the first since the Congress-led alliance took over.

Dixit and Aziz had met soon after the change of power in Delhi in an exercise to understand each other's policy. It was an exchange Aziz had sought. The current talks come in the wake of the meeting between the two foreign ministers in Delhi, where the Pakistani side could not hide its disappointment with the lack of progress on Kashmir.

Islamabad feels Musharraf will be able to break the status quo and convince Singh of an urgent need to take some steps on Kashmir to ensure that the peace process stays on course.

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