The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Musharraf gifts memories, Singh sher

New York, Sept. 24: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh broke the ice with General Pervez Musharraf in an hour-long one-to-one meeting which was high on sentiment, but short on content.

Musharraf set the tone for what officials on both sides called a 'wide-ranging and easy exchange' between the two leaders and paved the way for a 'pleasant' meeting when he gifted Singh a painting of the Prime Minister's alma mater in Gah, now in Pakistan.

Musharraf also gave Singh a photocopy of a tattered copy of the Prime Minister's mark sheet from the school. The general told Singh that he had scored better than him in all subjects, except in mathematics.

Indian officials were completely taken by surprise by Musharraf's gesture: they had not prepared similar gifts for him.

So Singh decided to take matters into his own hands and made up for the lack of reciprocity by charming Musharraf with Urdu couplets (sher).

Singh opened their meeting, with delegations present on both sides, by recalling their telephone conversation soon after the Prime Minister was sworn into office in May.

Aa ki in tarikion se surkhian paida karen

Is zameen ki bastion se aasma paida karen,

Singh had recited to Musharraf at that time. Roughly translated, it meant those who are on the ground must strive to reach the sky.

The implication of the lines was that the two countries should strive to achieve the high goals of peace and friendship.

Another couplet that Singh repeated today was:

Kuch aise bhi manzar hain tariq ki nazron mein

Lamhon ne khata ki, sadiyon ne saza paayi.

It meant that because of mistakes of a few moments in history, centuries have suffered.

The Prime Minister told his aides after his hour-long tete-a-tete with Musharraf 'when even the usual note-takers were not present ' that he was extremely pleased with the meeting.

The general was not only very polite, courteous and friendly, he also did not say one word that struck a discordant note at their meeting.

In a nutshell, Singh came away from the meeting at Roosevelt Hotel, where Musharraf is staying, with the clear impression that the two men could do business in future.

It was clear, though, from a joint statement issued at the end of their meeting that beyond pious hopes, there was not much progress on any substantive issue that bedevilled Indo-Pakistan relations.

The statement said Singh and Musharraf agreed that 'confidence building measures (CBMs) of all categories under discussion between the two governments should be implemented keeping in mind practical possibilities'.

It was also clear from the joint statement that both sides wanted to present a front which suggested that the Indo-Pakistan talks were making incremental progress.

'The possibility of a gas pipeline via Pakistan to India was also discussed,' it said. 'It was felt that such a project could contribute to the welfare and prosperity of the people of both countries and should be considered in the larger context of expanding trade and economic relations between India and Pakistan.'

Indian officials later explained that what it meant was that this is a project which could be looked at in the light of regional prosperity when there was enough mutual confidence between India and Pakistan to pursue such projects.

The meeting agreed on a timetable for future exchanges. Pakistan's Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz will visit India next month while Singh and Musharraf will meet in Dhaka for the Saarc summit soon thereafter.

Musharraf invited Singh to visit Pakistan and vice versa. Both the invitations were accepted and dates for visits are to be worked out through diplomatic channels.

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