Srinagar: Kashmir will figure prominently during the meetings between External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh and his British counterpart in London next month, media reports said today.
The reports quoting South Block sources said Singh would explain Indias stand on Kashmir and emphasise the fact that the Labour Governments critical approach towards India on the issue was an impediment to normalising bilateral relations.
Singh will be visiting London on 2 February, barely 10 days after the ongoing visit of the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister Brajesh Mishra.
Refuting suggestions that the two visits had anything to do with a turf war over foreign policy, Ministry sources said Singhs visit would be “an incremental effort, not a competitive one”.
However, it was emphasised that the visits would be at two levels and that there was “a need to engage Britain in a dialogue at all levels”.
Singh had established a relationship with the British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, during a private visit to London earlier when Cook had expressed a desire to meet him.
Mishra’s visit on the other hand had been in response to an invitation from the British Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Derek Fatchett.
While the invitation from Fatchett had been extended when there was no full-fledged External Affairs Minister, the government had subsequently taken a considered decision on whether to go ahead with the visit after consulting the External Affairs Ministry.
Justifying the two visits to London in quick succession. South Block sources said this was because “extra effort was required in view of “the bad patch” that the bilateral relationship had passed through for some time.
South Block’s argument does not quite wash with continuing confusion over the lines of authority evolving from PMO and the External Affairs Ministry.
(KASHMIR OBSERVER, 27 January, 1999)
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