Amidst reports of differences between India and Pakistan over the approach to be adopted on the Kashmir issue during the Agra Indo-Pak summit, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf held detailed discussions with Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar and other top officials to finalise the strategy.
While India wants confidence-building and trust-enhancing measures to be the centre-piece of the summit, Pakistan desires the talks to be pegged on to Kashmir with other contentious issues to follow on the agenda.
"We have been trying to find a mutually acceptable way to fine tune this basic difference in approach before the summit meeting takes place. We are still at it", an unnamed official was quoted as saying.
He said Musharraf's meeting yesterday with Sattar and other officials was to chalk out the strategy to be adopted at the summit-level talks with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
According to the official, the issues that would be taken up at the summit meeting include problems of regional stability, nuclear arms race and spending on defence and conventional arms build-up.
Other issues likely to figure during the talks are Kashmir, Siachen Glacier and the possibilities of broadening economic, commerce and trade engagements between the two countries.
The official said what is not yet decided is the sequence in which these problems would be taken up. "There are considerable differences on how the two sides are approaching the agenda for talks", he said.
The Pakistani official also indicated to the Dawn newspaper that there was a possibility the talks could be divided into formal sessions to have more structured discussions.
"The Indians have made the first proposal (on how the discussions should proceed) in this regard and we are studying it closely", he said. The final blueprint was not ready yet, he added.
He said one reason why the finer details of how the talks should proceed were still not final was that both sides want to cramp as much dialogue during the summit as possible. Much had been planned by way of negotiations, he said.
Hardly any issue that matters to either side had been left out of the talks, he said. Too many details were there to be finalised, he said.
Significantly, yesterday's meeting was also attended by Deputy Chief of Army Staff Lt.Gen. Muzaffar Usmani, who has been involved in such a publicised exercise for the first time.
Lt.Gen. Usmani was the Corps Commander, Karachi, when Gen Musharraf's plane from Colombo was refused permission by the deposed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to land on October 12, 1999, which subsequently led to the coup.
Lt.Gen. Usmani was made the Deputy Chief of the Army recently.