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Since 1st March, 1999
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Courtesy calls and a 'balancing' act
- Imran meets Vajpayee, Sonia on Indian sojourn

Calcutta: It wasn't exactly a balancing act, but Imran Khan did call on both elder statesman Atal Bihari Vajpayee of the Opposition and the ruling coalition's mentor, Sonia Gandhi, during his five-day visit to India which ended Monday evening.

While Imran met the former Prime Minister at his 6-A Krishna Menon Marg residence on Saturday, he called on Sonia (at 10 Janpath) some hours before boarding a PIA flight for Lahore.

Monday afternoon's meeting was pretty unique as both Imran and Sonia have declined the Prime Ministership. Imran did so over two years back; Sonia's move came six months ago.

'It was just a courtesy call' In fact, I admire Ms Gandhi for having declined the chair' Something like that doesn't happen in the sub-continent where power means everything,' the cricketer-turned-politician told The Telegraph after a 35-minute interaction.

[Imran declined the Prime Ministership as he didn't wish to join the 'coalition of the corrupt' being put together by General Pervez Musharraf in the lead-up to the last general elections ' 2002.]

He added: 'We discussed Indo-Pak relations, including Kashmir, the war on terrorism' Ms Gandhi iterated that the present government is committed to carrying forward the dialogue with Islamabad'

'For my part, I explained both the leadership and the people of Pakistan are ready for long-term peace and this mood ought to be taken advantage of in a bigger way'

Of course, Imran's views on Kashmir have usually been strongly opposed to New Delhi's position, but he clarified his discussion with Sonia wasn't at the 'micro level.'

Imran used the occasion to (also) invite Sonia to Pakistan. 'Her reply was that a trip is definitely on, but the dates haven't been finalised,' he informed.

Rahul Gandhi and the Vadras (Priyanka-Robert), it may be recalled, had visited Karachi in March during Team India's tour of Pakistan

Asked about his meeting with Vajpayee, Imran observed: 'He is out of power, but his role in reviving the peace process can't be forgotten' I was very keen to share thoughts and also wanted to know why the BJP lost'

'Moreover, I realised I could learn politically by interacting with such a veteran' After all, I run a party (Tehrik-e-Insaaf) and somebody so seasoned speaks from experience' I enjoyed the 40 odd minutes with Mr Vajpayee.'

[Incidentally, in a one-to-one with this correspondent in Islamabad earlier this year, Imran had said: ' His (Vaypayee's) maturity comes through in the manner he talks' Every word is weighed, the implications calculated' If he can settle Kashmir, that will be his never-to-be forgotten legacy']

Imran's next visit to India hasn't been finalised, though the Board of Control for Cricket in India is 'trying' to have him here for Saturday's Platinum Jubilee ODI versus Pakistan.

The hitch is that Imran, a Member of the National Assembly from Mianwali, has already committed himself to a leadership conference in Hong Kong around the same time.

The effort, however, continues.

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