New Delhi: In a path-breaking diplomatic exercise Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee will go to Pakistan by bus on the proposed Inaugural run of the Delhi-Lahore service likely later this month. His visit will be one more manifestation of India’s abiding desire to build peaceful, friendly and cooperative relations with Pakistan, an External Affairs Ministry spokesman said here today.
He was responding to questions on remarks made by Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in an interview to a New Delhi based english daily that he would welcome such a visit by Vajpayee and accompany the Indian counterpart on the return trip to Delhi. In Lucknow, Vajpayee told reporters that though he had not received any formal invitation personally,I would like to take a bus ride to Lahore.
The first ever Indian bus carrying an official delegation had reached Lahore in January eight covering distance of 494-Km to complete a dry run and had returned to the capital on January 11.
A bus from Pakistan, first ever to leave for India after partition, reached Delhi on January 14 and returned to Lahore on January 17. The decision to start the service was taken by the two Prime Ministers when they met in New York last September on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly Session.
Vajpayee looks forward to meeting Sharif and other Pakistani leaders as well as the people of Pakistan, the spokesman said. Dates for the inaugural bus service will be worked out shortly through diplomatic channels, he said. Official sources indicated that Vajpayee may board the bus at Amritsar before crossing over to Lahore.
On Sharifs offer of initiating direct bilateral negotiations on the nuclear issue, the spokesman said India would like serious and substantive discussions with Pakistan on all issues of mutual interest and concern, as part of the ongoing composite bilateral dialogue. The very first item on the agenda of the talks at the Foreign Secretaries level was peace and security including confidence building measures, he said adding we attach the highest importance to this subject which embraces all aspects of the security concerns of the two countries.
He made mention of the Indo-Pak parleys where New Delhi had made it clear that its security concerns were not country-specific and that these concerns go beyond Pakistan, he said. In this framework, we look forward, as always, to engage Pakistan in direct bilateral discussions on nuclear, and missile related issues, so as to contribute to developing mutual trust and confidence and keeping in mind the welfare of our people, the spokesman said.
Foreign Secretaries of the two countries are slated to meet later this month to carry forward discussions on peace and security and Jammu and Kashmir. No headway was made on these issues in the last round in Islamabad in October between K.Raghunath and Shamshad Ahmad.
(KASHMIR OBSERVER, 01 February, 1999)
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