Vol. 4 Num 217 Sat. January 03, 2004  
Front Page

Bush hopes Indo-Pak dialogue at summit

US President George W Bush has expressed the hope that India and Pakistan will initiate a dialogue on a variety of issues during the Saarc summit beginning tomorrow.

"The Indians and Pakistanis in upcoming meetings will be able to begin a dialogue on a variety of issues," Bush said Thursday after a quail-hunting session near Texas.

"It looks like they are making progress towards reconciling differences. Slowly but surely positive things are taking place, and I commend the leaders of both countries for taking steps towards a peaceful reconciliation of major issues that have divided them," he said.

The US President insisted that Pakistan's nuclear weapons "are secure and that is important."

"It is also important that India, as well, have a secure nuclear weapons programme," he said.

AFP adds: Pakistan is ready for bilateral meetings with India at the summit, Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri said.

"The ball is in India's court," Kasuri told reporters after attending a meeting of the seven foreign ministers here.

"It takes two to tango. You require a peace partner. We can't do it by ourselves."

Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee will have a chance to meet Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on Sunday night when Musharraf hosts a banquet for all visiting Saarc heads of state.

So far Vajpayee has not formally sought a separate meeting with Musharraf, as the five other visiting heads of state have done in accordance with Saarc summit traditions.

If the two do meet, formal discussions are not expected.

Foreign Secretary Shashank repeated yesterday that "no meetings have been fixed."

External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha Thursday insisted that no bilateral meetings had been fixed between Indian and Pakistani leaders.

"No such meeting has been fixed," he said before leaving for Pakistan.

Earlier, reports from Islamabad had talked about a possible meeting between Vajpayee and Pakistani Prime Minister Jamali while efforts were on to have a meeting between Vajpayee and Musharraf.