- The Washington Times - Friday, April 15, 2005

NEW DELHI — Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf begins a weekend trip to the Indian capital today that is officially billed as “informal” but has quickly acquired the dimensions of a state visit.

Gen. Musharraf will meet with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, ruling Congress Party chief Sonia Gandhi, former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, who initiated the peace process with Pakistan six years ago, and separatist politicians from Kashmir, the Muslim-majority Himalayan region claimed by both India and Pakistan.

Gen. Musharraf was last here in 2001 for a formal summit in the shadow of the Taj Mahal in Agra. That summit was wrecked by hawks in the Indian government. But Gen. Musharraf, arguably the most media-savvy South Asian leader, managed to steal the limelight and focus attention on Kashmir, where Indian soldiers have been battling armed Muslim infiltrators from Pakistan since 1989.

But since last November, there’s been an appreciable reduction in violence in Kashmir, a sign of improving relations between the nuclear-armed neighbors.

In a historic breakthrough, both sides even started a bus service last week linking the divided sections of Kashmir.

Gen. Musharraf virtually invited himself to New Delhi for the ostensible purpose of watching an India-Pakistan cricket match being played here tomorrow.

As soon as the visit was finalized though, Gen. Musharraf made it known that for him, discussions on the Kashmir dispute would take precedence over enjoying a game of cricket in the Indian capital.

As a result, New Delhi is showing every sign of being a reluctant, even somewhat bewildered host.

“We remain unsure of what the general … wants,” National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan said in an interview with the Hindu newspaper this week.

“On the table, Pakistan has produced very few proposals on Kashmir,” said Mr. Narayanan, a former intelligence chief.

Gen. Musharraf was quick to respond the same day through a TV interview with the Reuters news agency. He indicated that Pakistan would like to see more buses run across the military Line of Control (LOC) in Kashmir so it eventually becomes a “soft border.”

At the same time, he categorically rejected the Indian stand that both sides recognize the LOC as a permanent border and agree never to redraw national boundaries.

The general said he wants to take up the Kashmir dispute immediately “because we don’t have that much time.”

The municipal administration of New Delhi, meanwhile, has a special gift in store for Gen. Musharraf: his birth certificate.

The birth registration record of Gen. Musharraf, who was born in Delhi on Aug. 11, 1942, has been found and a certificate was being prepared, the civic body’s spokesman told the Press Trust of India news agency.

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