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Aga Khan behind thaw in Indo-Pak relations - AGA KHAN HELPED BREAK PAK-INDIA IMPASSE - 2003-05-03

Saturday, 2003, May 3
www.dailyexcelsior.com Daily Excelsior

The efforts of the Aga Khan, apart from US diplomatic pressure, is being seen as a factor, behind the recent attempts towards creating a 'thaw' in Indo-Pak relations, a leading Pakistani newspaper has reported.
At least two knowledgeable ruling politicians and a few senior Pakistani officials have credited intense background efforts of spiritual leader of the Ismaili community, Prince Karim Aga Khan, for diplomatic breakthrough between Islamabad and New Delhi that in the past few days again ignited hope of a durable peace, 'the news' reported today.

The unexpected offer of Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee for 'decisive' peace talks and restoration of full diplomatic relations with Pakistan took the world by surprise.

Informed senior Pakistani officials and top ruling politicians have now said that they believed that besides the continuing diplomatic pressure from Washington, the personal efforts of Prince Karim Aga Khan over the past two weeks played a crucial role in encouraging the Indian leadership, particularly Prime Minister Vajpayee, to initiate fresh efforts to resolve Kashmir issue with Pakistan.

'It seemed that Aga Khan devoted much of his time behind the glare of publicity in April in breaking ice between New Delhi and Islamabad,' the paper quoted an informed diplomatic source, who didn't want to be identified, as saying.

The one-on-one meeting between Prince Karim Aga Khan and Prime Minister Vajpayee in New Delhi on April 14 was an important development that encouraged the Indian PM to change the Indian strategy in dealing with Pakistan, the source added.

This was Aga Khan's first visit to India in 11 years. Four days after that meeting, Prime Minister Vajpayee travelled to Srinagar to offer fresh dialogues to Pakistan over Kashmir. Prince Karim Aga Khan's arrival in Islamabad on Friday was coincided by Prime Minister Vajpayee's declaration in the Parliament to restore full diplomatic ties with Pakistan, the report said.

It was no coincidence that President Pervez Musharraf used his dinner reception for Prince Karim Aga Khan in Islamabad on Friday to air his first public response to Vajpayee's peace statements, sources believe.

'We desire tension-free and cooperative relations with India. We stand ready to enter into a dialogue anytime, anywhere,' said Gen Musharraf at the dinner which was also attended by the top Pakistani military brass.

During his three-day long stay in Pakistan, Prince Karim Aga Khan spent most of his time meeting top Pakistani officials including President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Jamali besides meeting informally with several top military officials, the paper said.

Sources believe that Prince Karim Aga Khan has now committed himself to peace in the sub-continent and is prepared to use his international standing and reputation to help Pakistan and India reach a negotiated settlement over Kashmir.(UNI)

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