The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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A day extra to mend Agra fences
- Ice-breaker meeting between Musharraf and Advani on the cards

New Delhi, March 22: Pervez Musharraf is likely to break bread as well as the ice with L.K. Advani when he is in Delhi in April to watch the Indo-Pak one-dayer.

Official sources said the Pakistan President was likely to extend his stay ' initially scheduled for a day ' to meet the BJP president over dinner at his residence, reportedly at Advani's request.

Advani was unavailable for comment but sources close to him said: 'We are not in a position to state anything specifically. His schedule and programme have to be worked out by the government.'

The sources refused to confirm if Advani had put in a request to have the Pakistan President over for dinner. But official sources said they had information Musharraf might stay an extra day and a 'meeting' with Advani was on the cards.

The Advani-Musharraf meeting assumes significance in the context of allegations Islamabad made after the 2001 Agra summit. It had claimed that it was Advani who prevented the signing of a joint draft declaration which had very nearly been worked out and only awaited the signatures of then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Musharraf.

The official line was that Pakistan's refusal to mention cross-border terror in the proposed declaration was the deterrent.

Of late, there has been a perceptible thaw in Advani's attitude to Musharraf. In a recent TV interview, he said Musharraf could 'deliver' and he was optimistic the Indo-Pak peace process could move forward.

Advani claimed Musharraf had come to Agra with a 'kind of confidence' that he could coax India to sign a declaration without mentioning terrorism and dubbing Jammu and Kashmir as a 'freedom struggle'. The BJP chief said 9/11 and developments in Pakistan had brought about a 'change' in him.

'Apart from 9/11, things that developed in Pakistan made him realise terrorism is an evil which will afflict every country.'

Advani said he had a standing invitation to visit Pakistan. It is likely that once Musharraf formally makes a request at the proposed dinner meet, Advani may reciprocate with a visit.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur have already asked the Musharrafs over for a meal. The invite was extended via the President's family members who they had called for lunch at their residence yesterday.

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