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We are cautiously optimistic: Maleeha Lodhi

Shyam Bhatia in London | January 06, 2004 09:58 IST

Pakistan's high commissioner to United Kingdom Maleeha Lodhi says a 'thaw' is in evidence between Pakistan and India, but the important issue is what happens next and what are the future steps.

Lodhi, former envoy to Washington DC, comes from an extended family of senior military officers.

Asked in a BBC radio interview for her reactions to the Islamabad summit, she said, "The mood is upbeat and we're all feeling optimistic, although cautiously optimistic about the future."

A former academic and a divorcee, Lodhi had a stint in journalism before she was picked up by former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who appointed her ambassador to Washington.

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When Bhutto fell from power, Lodhi quickly switched sides and was duly sent back to Washington, this time representing Pakistan's military strongman, General Pervez Musharraf.

Charming and brilliant, her willingness to participate in the musical chairs game of Pakistani politics soon earned her a reputation for being utterly ruthless and disloyal to friends of long standing.

Earlier last year she was mentioned as a possible candidate to be Pakistan's high commissioner to India, but there was a collective sigh of relief in New Delhi when she was assigned to London instead.

Asked how the atmosphere between Islamabad and New Delhi had changed so rapidly, she said, "As you know it was India that massed a large number of troops on our border and of course Pakistan responded in a military build up, which is really unprecedented even by South Asian standards."

"But, having said that, it is also important also to see that India decided then to de-escalate and step back from the brink. So I think we've had a period when both sides have stepped back from the brink. The important issue is to see what happens next."

Asked if she was convinced of India's good intentions, she replied, "I think the dialogue itself is always a means to trust but verify and I think that is exactly what Pakistan is doing, which is taking on good faith the words we are hearing from Prime Minister Vajpayee and the foreign minister Mr Sinha and we want to take the process forward."

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