Today's Paper

Jaswant, Sattar may meet in Kathmandu

NEW DELHI, DEC. 30. While talks between the Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee, and the Pakistan President, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, are virtually ruled out, the External Affairs Minister, Mr. Jaswant Singh, is likely to meet his Pakistan counterpart, Mr. Abdul Sattar, on the sidelines of the coming SAARC summit at Kathmandu.

Official sources said here the Government was ``factoring in'' the suggestions in favour of a Foreign Ministers' meeting at Kathmandu by leaders outside the ruling coalition invited today for consultations by Mr. Vajpayee. However, a final decision is yet to be announced.

The Government, in considering a meeting between Mr. Singh and Mr. Sattar, was also responding to the international diplomatic response to the Indian demand for putting an end to Pakistan-based cross-border terrorism.

Sources here said the international response to the December 13 attack was being played out on two planes. First, global pressure on Pakistan to curb Kashmir-centric terrorists had been mounting. Telephonic conversation between the Prime Minister and leading world leaders, including the U.S. President, Mr. George W. Bush, the French President, Mr. Jacques Chirac, and the Iranian President, Mr. Mohammad Khatami, over the last week reveal an increasing understanding of the Indian response to the incident.

It is being clearly realised that the country's firmness in dealing with Pakistan is being propelled by the groundswell of public indignation here. Being a democracy, the Government hardly has any option, but to air these sentiments. Sources said India in these conversations insisted that Pakistan should publicly adopt a ``firm and unequivocal'' position against cross-border terrorism. This, it feels, should be followed by meaningful action on the ground.

While pressure on Pakistan to curb terrorism is substantial, India is also being asked by world leaders to defuse military tensions on the border and revive talks with Islamabad.

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