New Ind Press
May 5, 2003

Aga Khan helped break impasse: Pakistani newspaper


KARACHI: Prince Karim Aga Khan, who recently visited the subcontinent, was instrumental in "breaking the ice" that has led to the recent thaw between India and Pakistan, a Pakistani newspaper reported on Sunday.

"It seems the Aga Khan devoted much of his time behind the glare of publicity in April in breaking the ice between New Delhi and Islamabad," The News quoted diplomatic sources as saying.

Senior Pakistani officials and politicians told the newspaper they believed the personal efforts of the Aga Khan, the spiritual head of the Ismaili community, played a crucial role in encouraging the Indian leadership, particularly Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, to initiate fresh efforts to resolve the Kashmir issue.

The News said the one-on-one meeting between the Aga Khan and Vajpayee in New Delhi on April 14 was the single most important development in this regard.

The Aga Khan had also held extensive talks with opposition Congress party leader Sonia Gandhi after meeting Vajpayee.

The Aga Khan heads a foundation that is engaged in humanitarian and educational activities the world over, including in India and Pakistan. He has extensive followers among the Bohra business community in India's Maharashtra state. His grandfather was a confidante of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan.

Four days after the meeting with the Aga Khan, Vajpayee travelled to Srinagar to offer his "hand of friendship" to Pakistan.

The newspaper noted that the Aga Khan's arrival in Islamabad on Friday coincided with Vajpayee's announcement in the Indian Parliament on restoring full diplomatic ties with Pakistan.

It was no coincidence, The News said, that President Pervez Musharraf chose his dinner reception for the Aga Khan in Islamabad on Friday to air his first public response to Vajpayee's peace statements.

The newspaper quoted officials as saying the 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".