The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Gun salute to Advani Pak trip
- Delhi, Islamabad keen to make visit a success

New Delhi, May 27: The man accused of scuttling the Agra summit is set to receive a red-carpet welcome in Pakistan.

L.K. Advani’s second visit to the country of his birth, which starts on May 30, has acquired the trappings of a state visit.

The leader of the Opposition, who will be accompanied by a huge media team on the tour, today met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for 20 minutes to be briefed on the peace process.

The duo deliberated on the BJP leader’s Pakistan agenda, which includes meetings with President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, Advani told reporters.

For many years as the No. 2 in the BJP government, Advani had had little say in foreign policy, which was seen as Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s domain while internal security was his. The BJP had arranged things so that the two would not step on each other’s toes.

But during Musharraf’s visit to India for the Agra peace talks, Advani ' as home minister ' showed that his views also counted.

Since then, the Indian and Pakistani establishments have grudgingly acknowledged that a “consensus” on Kashmir and other issues impinging on Indo-Pak relations cannot exclude the standpoint of the BJP and, by implication, that of Advani, who is now party president.

It is learnt that Islamabad is prepared to let bygones be bygones and make Advani’s trip a “success”.

Post-Agra, Musharraf as well as others in the Pakistan establishment had insinuated that Advani had “scuttled” the emergence of a joint treaty.

There was no categorical rejection from the BJP. The episode strengthened Advani’s image as a “hardliner” on Pakistan.

BJP sources said Advani now wants to “repair” that image. He has apparently realised that “hawkish” politics on Ayodhya, Muslims and Pakistan would take neither him nor the BJP far in global politics, which has begun placing a huge premium on “conflict resolution”.

After his meeting with Singh, Advani said he considered his trip an “important link” in the peace process begun by Vajpayee.

He was briefed by external affairs ministry officials. Sources said the Centre would not allow “politics” to come in the way of Advani’s visit and was keen to see it go off without glitches.

The BJP’s support, they said, was crucial at a time when the government was prepared to make “minor concessions” to the Hurriyat Conference.

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