The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Advani peace pitch ahead of roots tour

New Delhi, May 29: If President Pervez Musharraf came to India with a naya dil (changed heart), BJP president L.K. Advani, too, seems to have mellowed on the eve of his weeklong visit to Pakistan.

Asked during a STAR News interview how he felt accepting the hospitality of the Pakistan President, who had accused him of sabotaging the July 2001 Agra Summit, the former deputy Prime Minister said much had changed since then.

“I was a party to the decision to invite Musharraf to Agra, and the peace initiative undertaken by the Vajpayee government still continues,” he said, adding that whatever had happened at Agra was the result of the Centre’s decisions.

Advani, then Union home minister and seen as a hardliner on Pakistan, was accused of adopting an inflexible line on terrorism in Kashmir, which led to the failure of the summit.

Today he said: “Terrorism may figure in our talks with Pakistan authorities, but now the Pakistan government is also fighting (a) battle against terrorism.

“It is in the interests of (the) people of India and Pakistan to develop good relations and mutual co-operation.”

Asked if he would take the cue from Musharraf and go to Pakistan with a naya dil, the leader of the Opposition said: “Let me go and see what happens there.”

BJP sources say Advani wants to shed his image of a hawk on Pakistan. In keeping with that line, the BJP leader ' who will meet Musharraf, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and foreign minister Khursheed Mahmood Kasuri ' said in a statement that the two neighbours want to build a “new future”.

Advani, who is scheduled to visit his birthplace, Karachi, underscored the personal angle. The tour, he said, signifies a kind of “return to the roots for me”.

Pakistan is set to host several other high-profile Indian guests in the next few days. Islamabad has invited leaders of the separatist All India Hurriyat Conference of Kashmir to visit the country from June 2.

Petroleum minister Mani Shankar Aiyar is to arrive on June 4 and hold talks the next day on the proposed India-Iran gas pipeline that is to run through Pakistan.

Islamabad hosted defence secretary Ajai Vikram Singh this week for a dialogue on Siachen.

Another group of officials is carrying on talks on Sir Creek. A large team of Indian industry leaders have just left Pakistan after a five-day trip.

Earlier, 33 Indian MPs and journalists attended a five-day South Asian parliamentarians’ conference, organised by the South Asian Free Media Association.

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