Monday, Jul 21, 2003
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By Our Special Correspondent
The chief of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) in Pakistan, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, with the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, in New Delhi on Sunday. Photo: V. Sudershan
Till this afternoon there was no indication that the Pakistani Opposition leader would be able to meet any "official" functionary during his stay here. By agreeing to a meeting, the Prime Minister sought to make Mr. Rahman feel welcome. "Peace" and "dialogue" were the two themes that figured prominently in their interaction. Mr. Rehman is likely to meet the Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, and the Leader of Opposition, Sonia Gandhi, in the next few days.
Today's meeting was attended by the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, Brajesh Mishra, and other officials. Mr. Rehman was accompanied by his Indian host, Maulana Mehmood Madani of the Jamat-e-Hind.
Speaking to reporters outside the Prime Minister's residence, Mr. Rehman said he had emphasised the need for India and Pakistan to engage in Foreign Secretary-level talks, which could prepare the ground for a summit, expected at the forthcoming SAARC meet. Official sources, however, were unwilling to commit that the Prime Minister would attend the SAARC summit.
The Maulana welcomed the peace process initiated by Mr. Vajpayee. He reiterated the point he has been making during his stay here that the Kashmir issue must be solved through dialogue. However, there was no discussion on "cross-border terrorism". Nor any assurance was sought from him, according to sources.
The Pakistani leader appreciated the warm welcome he and other members of his delegation have received in India. This feeling of warmth and goodwill, he said, would be conveyed to the people of Pakistan and the National Assembly on his return home.
"I will take the message of peace to the people and members of the National Assembly,'' he promised.
The Indian side is believed to have emphasised the need to promote people-to-people contact and trade between the two countries. By deciding to meet a prominent non-government person from Pakistan, the Prime Minister has signalled his Government's keenness to sustain the peace process.
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