The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Summit in Delhi minus trappings

New Delhi, April 14: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Pervez Musharraf are getting ready for a business meeting, with a joint statement not ruled out at the end.

Three days before Musharraf arrives on what has been tagged an 'informal' visit, Sati Lambah, special envoy to Pakistan, is in Islamabad to fine-tune preparations with counterpart Tariq Aziz. The duo has been involved in back-channel diplomacy over the last month.

While the Manmohan-Musharraf meeting was planned to be 'businesslike' ' without the trappings and hype of a summit ' if the discussions yield 'something meaningful', a joint statement could emerge, sources said.

The sources pointed to the Prime Minister's first statement on Musharraf, after meeting him in New York in September, when he said he was prepared to do 'business' with the general.

While Delhi is ready for talks on any subject, Manmohan has set some ground rules: 'no media hype, no scoring brownie points and no scope for drama of the kind witnessed during the Agra summit'.

Musharraf would agree on that. In an interview to Reuters today, the general joked: 'I hope it doesn't turn out like Agra!' His talks with A.B. Vajpayee had collapsed in 2001, almost leading the two countries to the brink of another war.

'Our thinking is clear: if the discussions yield something substantive and meaningful, worthy of a joint statement, well and good. If nothing emerges, the meetings can still continue without rancour,' a source said.

Musharraf spelt out his expectations. 'We cannot solve the issue (Kashmir), we cannot reach a conclusion, but if we make progress on it and we strike some common ground, that is what I would like to achieve and that is the maximum that one can expect.'

After the start of the Srinagar-Muzaffarbad bus service across the Line of Control, Musharraf said, Pakistan would like to see more routes opened. 'That really is the first step towards converting it into a soft border,' he said.

'I am fairly optimistic,' he said, 'because I see Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to be a sincere person and wanting to come to a resolution of this dispute.'

Delhi welcomed his statements as 'extremely positive'.

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