KARACHI: At least two knowledgeable ruling politicians and a few senior Pakistani officials are crediting 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.
Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee surprised the world in the past two weeks when he suddenly reversed the belligerent Indian stance of equating Pakistan with Saddam Hussain's Iraq by offering "decisive" peace talks and restoration of full diplomatic relations with Pakistan.
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," divulged an informed a diplomatic source, who didn't want to be identified.
On separate diplomatic front the US Secretary of State Colin Powell is personally leading moves to bring Indian and Pakistani leadership back to negotiations, but an informed source said that one-on-one meeting between Prince Karim Aga Khan and Prime Minister Vajpayee in New Delhi on April 14 was the single most important development that encouraged Vajpayee to change his heart with Pakistan.
Aga Khan held extensive talks with Indian opposition leader Sonia Gandhi after meeting Vajpayee. This was Aga Khan's first visit to India in 11 years. Four days after that meeting with Aga Khan, 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.
It was no coincidence, informed sources said, 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.
In the dinner also attended by the top Pakistani military brass, Musharraf said: "We seek peaceful resolution of all disputes and differences especially the core dispute over Jammu and Kashmir - we desire sincerity in this commitment. We on our part will demonstrate all our seriousness,"
President Musharraf further stated: ""We desire tension-free and cooperative relations with India. We stand ready to enter into a dialogue anytime, anywhere," 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.
His Highness Aga Khan III, the grandfather of Prince Karim Aga Khan, was widely considered as one of the most trusted confidante of Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. He was always in the forefront of the liberation struggle and is undisputedly accepted as one of the creators of Pakistan.
Informed officials said that Prince Karim Aga Khan, it seems, 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.
On May 8, US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage is beginning a tour of subcontinent where his peace efforts are likely to get momentum because of the new beginning made in the region because of Aga Khan's efforts.
The Aga Khan foundation in Pakistan is engaged in the work that relate to the improvement of quality of life through rural development, education, healthcare, micro-credit, financial services, humanitarian assistance and the enhancement of non-governmental organisations.