Manmohan’s overture sets stage for Pakistan meeting in TrinidadOctober 29th, 2009 - 5:33 pm ICT by IANS
By Manish Chand
New Delhi, Oct 29 (IANS) With barely a month to go before the leaders of India and Pakistan meet again in Trinidad in a bid to thaw the ice, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has reached out to Islamabad with a humanitarian package for talks, opening up the possibility of a revival of limited talks between the two countries.
In a curious replay of the build-up to the Sharm el-Sheikh summit over three months ago, the US, too, has started sending signals to India to restart the stalled dialogue with Pakistan for the sake of regional stability.
“I appeal to the government of Pakistan that the hand of friendship that we have extended should be carried forward. This is in the interest of people of India and Pakistan,” Manmohan Singh said in the Kashmir Valley Wednesday, nearly a month before he goes to the Commonwealth Heads of Government (CHOGM) summit in Port of Spain, set for Nov 27-29.
Manmohan Singh, however, made it clear that for a “productive dialogue” it is “essential that terrorism must be brought under control”.
It’s not clear whether President Asif Ali Zardari or Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani will represent Pakistan at the summit, but the meeting on the sidelines is certain, sources said here.
This will be the first meeting between the top leaders of India and Pakistan after Manmohan Singh held talks with Gilani at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt July 16 that delinked action on terror from the composite dialogue process in a controversial move by India to give more space to Islamabad to crack down on anti-India militants.
With Pakistan, in New Delhi’s view, not showing credible action against the Mumbai terror suspects in the ensuing months, the chances of resumption of full-scale dialogue will be slim at this meeting, which will also coincide with the first anniversary of the Mumbai terror attacks in November 2008, sources said here.
But Manmohan Singh has held out a new formula that may just pave the way for limited dialogue, revolving around a slew of humanitarian measures. In his speech in the Valley, the prime minister focused on improving trans-Kashmir trade and popular contacts and stressed on slew of “humanitarian issues whose resolution requires the cooperation of Pakistan.”
India is “ready to discuss these and other issues with the government of Pakistan. I hope that as a result things will be made easier for our traders, divided families, prisoners and travellers,” he said, putting the welfare of people at the heart of India-Pakistan engagement.
Pakistan has welcomed Manmohan Singh’s readiness to discuss all outstanding issues and sought the mediation of the US to resume dialogue when Gilani met US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on her maiden visit to Islamabad Thursday.
A statement from Gilani’s office quoted Clinton as saying that while she was aware that “it is a difficult process, the US government would support efforts for early resumption of the composite dialogue.”
Significantly, Manmohan Singh will head to Port of Spain immediately after a state visit to Washington where he is sure to face pressure on resuming dialogue with Pakistan, a move that Washington thinks will free Islamabad to focus on combating the Taliban-Al Qaeda combine in its lawless border areas.
Manmohan Singh, however, Thursday denied any international pressure on resuming talks.
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