India, Pak prepare to cement nuclear, conventional pacts

From K Subrahmanya
DH News Service
LAHORE, Feb 19

India and Pakistan are likely to initial a set of agreements for strengthening existing bilateral confidence-building measures (CBMs) in the nuclear and conventional fields during the Vajpayee- Sharif week-end summit meeting in Lahore.

Top officials from both sides have been working overtime for the last few days on identifying the convergence of views which had emerged during the resumed foreign secretary-level talks in Islamabad last October on the nuclear and conventional CBM issue in order to put them into the form of concrete agreements.

The new Indian High Commissioner G Parthasarathy gave ample indication today that some agreements on the CBMs would be signed at the end of Prime Minister A B Vajpayee`s visit here, the first by an Indian prime minister in a decade and only the fourth since independence.

The prime minister`s principal secretary, Mr Brajesh Mishra, who arrived here this afternoon, joined senior external affairs ministry officials who have already been negotiating with their Pakistani counterparts to give final shape to fresh agreements on the CBMs. Mr Mishra is also understood to have held discussions with top officials in Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif`s office.

Speaking to the visiting Indian journalists here tonight, Mr Parthasarathy, while declining to spell out the likely agreements, said there would definitely be ''meaningful results`` at the end of the summit. He said Mr Vajpayee and Mr Sharif would be meeting on more than one occasion for one-to-one talks on Saturday and Sunday. The two leaders would be touching on the whole gamut of issues relating to Indo-Pak ties, including the Kashmir issue. The two leaders would set their own agenda as well during the talks, he said, adding that the main objective would be to ''foster trust and cooperation and reconcile differ ences``.

Meanwhile, the main roads of the historic Lahore city were being cleaned till late this evening to receive the Indian prime minister. It is for the first time that an Indian prime minister is visiting the city, known in this country as the ''soul of Pakistan``. The host officials incharge of security have thrown up a security ring around the VIP areas in the city. The security agencies and police have also sealed off the GT road leading to the Wagah border from the city.

Punjab Province Governor Shahid Hamid and Mr Parthasarathy visited the Wagah border crossing to inspect the arrangements for Mr Vajpayee`s bus journey across the border tomorrow by in the maiden run of the Delhi-Lahore bus service.

Mr Vajpayee will be given a guard of honour by the three services of the Pakistani armed forces. Later the two prime ministers will fly by helicopter to the city. On the inaugural bus service, Mr Vajpayee will be accompanied by External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh, Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal, Foreign Secretary K Raghunath and other senior officials. Among the prominent citizens who will travel with the Prime Minister are Kapil Dev, Dev Anand, Shabana Azmi, Zafar Iqbal, Pargat Singh, Vyjanthimala Bali, Kuldip Nayyar and Satish Gujral. Although Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit was also expected to join the VIP party, there was no confirmation about it till late tonight.

Mr Parthasarathy said the purpose of such a large number of eminent persons accompanying the prime minister was to reach out to the people of Pakistan and not just confine the exchange to the official level. As part of this exercise, Mr Vajpayee would host a public reception at the Governor`s House, the venue of Mr Vajpayee`s talks with Mr Sharif as well as the delegation-level talks. The two prime ministers will cap their summit with a joint press conference on Sunday.

ks. The two prime ministers will cap their summit with a joint press conference on Sunday.