Powell asks Indian FM to be positive

Published January 1, 2004

WASHINGTON, Dec 31: US Secretary of State Colin Powell on Wednesday called Indian Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha to offer a pep talk on relations with Pakistan, before the Saarc summit.

The Jan 4-6 summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) will draw leaders of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

The meeting will be closely watched for the appearance in Islamabad of Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, as tentative efforts continue to ease Indo-Pakistan tensions.

"The secretary previewed the upcoming SAARC summit and said we are pleased at the latest confidence-building measures that Pakistan and India have undertaken and encouraged them to continue in that direction," said a senior State Department official.

President Pervez Musharraf and Vajpayee are due to come face to face at a banquet on Jan 4. There are also hopes for high-level Indo-Pakistani talks on the sidelines of the summit.

The aggravated South Asian relations, which sparked fears of a new war over the disputed region of Kashmir, began to improve after Mr Vajpayee offered a "hand of friendship" to Pakistan in April. -AFP

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