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Golden-coloured bus leaves for Amritsar

PM ready with peace message

NEW DELHI, Feb 18 (PTI & UNI)

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee will carry the ''message of peace`` during his historic journey to Pakistan on the 37-seater luxury bus of the Delhi Transport Corporation which left here today for Amritsar en route to Lahore on the inaugural Delhi-Lahore bus service.

The golden coloured bus, christened Sada-i-Sarhad (Voice of the Border), will carry Mr Vajpayee from Amritsar to Lahore crossing over at Wagha border. It was received and seen off at the old Secretariat by Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit.

The bus left for Amritsar after a 20-minute halt at the old Secretariat and will be carrying a few officials. At Amritsar, the prime minister`s entourage will comprise officials from the Ministry of External Affairs and his office besides his security staff.

External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh, Principal Secretary Brajesh Mishra, Foreign Secretary K Raghunath and Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal will also accompany him.

During the meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif, Mr Vajpayee will propose confidence-building measures on the nuclear issue besides putting across forthrightly New Delhi`s concerns on the Jammu and Kashmir issue.

India`s desire for an enduring relationship of mutual confidence, peace, amity and multi-faceted cooperation between the two countries, would be conveyed by Mr Vajpayee during his meetings with Pakistani leaders, External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh told reporters today.

Describing the inaugural run of the Delhi-Lahore bus service on Saturday as a ''path-breaking event,`` Mr Singh said it would be the first prime ministerial visit between the two countries in 10 years.

Asked whether the two sides would discuss a no-war pact, he said: ''It is our view that this is perhaps the most historic engagement between two countries after the 1972 Shimla agreement.

''Any proposal put forward aimed at enhancing amity, friendship and directed towards welfare of the people of the two countries which shall be given the most serious consideration,`` he said, adding there would be discussions on nuclear confidence-building measures.

On the J and K issue, he said, ''our concerns are well known. They will be discussed and put across candidly and forthrighly. That, after all, is one of the purposes of the dialogue.`` Officials of the DTC who are accompanying the prime minister to Lahore, will fly to Amritsar tomorrow.

The ''most modern`` Ashok Leyland bus is fitted with telephone and channel music besdides the usual air conditioning. According to the schedule, the bus carrying the prime minister will cross the border at about 4 pm IST.

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