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June 3, 1999
Jaswant, Aziz to meet next week
George Iype in New Delhi
The talks between the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan to defuse the conflict in the Kargil sector will take place next week even though neither India nor Pakistan has officially communicated the dates for the meeting.
(According to a television report, Pakistan has proposed Monday, June 7, for Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz's visit to New Delhi. But the Indian government said it had received no official communication.)
An external affairs ministry official said the finalisation of the date is caught in a bind for many reasons.
For one, the ministry, which is chalking out the agenda, feels the meeting will be a test of Indian diplomacy. Most Western countries and four United Nations Security Council members have responded favourably to the Indian air strikes. "We want to ensure that this positive international response is not lost after the talks. Therefore, we need time to make sure Indian diplomacy vis-a-vis Pakistan is a success," he told Rediff On The NeT.
Secondly, India is awaiting a response from Pakistan on the demand for the immediate release of Flight Lieutenant K Nachiketa, who has been in Islamabad's custody for more than a week now.
Foreign Secretary K Raghunath, who briefed the Cabinet Committee on Security today on the diplomatic initiatives, said India has been repeating its demand for the air force officer's return every day.
"Every day we are telling Pakistan to release him. But we are yet to get any positive response," he told reporters soon after the CCS meeting.
The foreign secretary said as long as Flt Lt Nachiketa is in Pakistan's captivity, India's air attache in the high commission in Islamabad should have access to him. "But [that too] has not happened," he said.
The CCS meeting chaired by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee discussed the Kargil operations and reviewed the security threat posed by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence across the country.
Thirdly, the Indian government is not in favour of holding the talks immediately as it wants to first ensure that the Kargil operation is successful and Pakistan has only one option: to de-escalate the tension on the Line of Control and to reaffirm the Lahore Declaration.
The official also clarified it is unlikely that the foreign ministers' dialogue will discuss the option of safe passage for the infiltrators as advocated by Defence Minister George Fernandes.
A source pointed out such a plan will not come up for discussion because Pakistan will have to first make a formal request for safe passage for the terrorists. But that appears to be out of the question as Pakistan has time and again disowned the infiltrators, terming them "freedom-fighters" from within Kashmir.
The external affairs ministry official said India would advocate that the conflict in Kargil be seen as an "aberration" and so it should have no bearing on the Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration.
The Indian side anticipates that Pakistan will push for the talks to focus on the overall situation in Kashmir.
It also expects Pakistan to demand the establishment of a fresh monitoring process along the Line of Control by the United Nations.
Given this divergence, diplomats believe the talks between Jaswant Singh and Sartaj Aziz will not be "productive and successful".
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