Terror to top Manmohan-Zardari meeting agenda in New York

September 19th, 2008 - 9:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghNew Delhi, Sep 19 (IANS) India will convey a tough no-nonsense message to Pakistan on ending cross-border terrorism when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh meets President Asif Ali Zardari in New York next week.“Our agenda with Pakistan is well-known. For the dialogue process to move forward, there has to be an atmosphere free from violence,” Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon told reporters Friday when asked what will be India’s message to Pakistan next week.

Menon, however, did not give time and date for the meeting between Manmohan Singh and Zardari on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meet in New York.

Official sources, however, indicated the meeting could take place on either Sep 24 or Sep 26. This will be Manmohan Singh’s first meeting with the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader since he became the president early this month.

Menon, however, struck a cautiously optimistic note on starting cross-border trade with Pakistan. “We will like to start it as soon as possible,” he said.

Experts from both sides will meet in New Delhi Sep 22 for finalizing modalities for cross-border trade along the Srinagar-Muzzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawlakot routes. Reviving cross-border trade on the Kardil-Skardu route is also being considered.

Menon, however, expressed disappointment over Pakistan’s dilly-dallying over reciprocating India’s gesture of hosting businessmen from the Indian side of Kashmir.

Manmohan Singh leaves for the US Monday on a five-day visit that will include an address to the UN General Assembly Sep 26 and a meeting with US President George W. Bush in Washington Sep 25.

Besides Zardari, he will also meet Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and discuss a host of bilateral and global issues. Meetings with other world leaders are being finalized.

When he meets Zardari, Manmohan Singh is likely to raise New Delhi’s concerns about the alleged complicity of Islamabad in the July 7 bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul - an assertion that was reinforced by US intelligence intercepts, but was denied by Islamabad.

With Saturday’s serial blasts in New Delhi fresh in mind, Manmohan Singh is likely to again remind his interlocutor about Pakistan’s 2004 pledge not to allow its territory for anti-India terror activities, the sources said.

Sensing that India will try to make terrorism the main focus of the Manmohan-Zardari meeting in New York, Pakistan, which itself has been a victim of a spate of suicide bombings, is in the process of crafting a strategy to combat the scourge under a new regional arrangement.

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