RATING RACE: CRICKET AND PERVEZ 

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By FROM PRANAY SHARMA
  • Published 19.07.01
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New Delhi, July 19 :    New Delhi, July 19:  Indian officials are keeping their evening free tomorrow. Not to catch Sourav Ganguly in Sri Lanka, but watch President Pervez Musharraf in action in Islamabad. South Block mandarins and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's advisers are clearing up their schedules to grab the Pakistan President's news conference live on PTV at 5.30 pm, when the India-New Zealand match will be in progress. For South Block, what Musharraf has to say at the news conference is important as it will be a major factor in deciding India's policy towards Pakistan. Delhi is miffed with the way the general spilt key negotiating points on the breakfast table with the Indian editors at Agra. The fact that Pakistan foreign minister Abdul Sattar followed it up by detailing the points agreed upon by the two sides on the draft of the joint declaration to reporters in Islamabad on Tuesday, has made matters worse. There are indications that Musharraf's advisers have selectively released the draft to some journalists. "If this is the way international negotiations are to be conducted, then we will have to re-think our future tactics while dealing with Pakistan," a senior South Block official said. Foreign ministry spokesperson Nirupama Rao expressed similar sentiments this evening. "We are of the firm view that such negotiations cannot be conducted through the media," Rao said. Foreign minister Jaswant Singh has accepted an invitation from his Pakistani counterpart to visit Islamabad. Rao said the dates of Singh's visit will be worked out later. But indications suggest that if Musharraf adopts a hard line and keeps giving out details of the negotiations of the Agra Summit, India will be forced to rethink whether it should maintain the dialogue process. "How can we, or for that matter any country, rely on Pakistan if they continue to give out details of negotiations that the two principals had at Agra?" a senior foreign ministry official said. The issue also came up at the meeting that US chief of armed forces General Henry Shelton had with Singh and national security adviser Brajesh Mishra this afternoon. Sources said Shelton asked the Indian leaders why the Agra Summit could not come out with a joint declaration. Shelton was told the reason lay in Pakistan's insistence on resolving the Kashmir issue first before progressing on other areas. But he was assured of Delhi's commitment to peace and establishing friendly relations with all neighbours. Asked if this meant the summit had ended in failure, Rao said: "Agra has marked the beginning of a journey and commencement of a process to establish peace and friendship between the two countries." Pakistan today said "several understandings" had been reached at the summit and these should be carried forward, adds PTI.