Indian, Pakistani PMs to meet in Colombo Saturday (Lead)

July 31st, 2008 - 10:11 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By P. Karunakharan
Colombo, July 31 (IANS) Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani will meet here Saturday on the sidelines of the SAARC summit, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Thursday. The decision was taken after visiting Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee held a one-hour meeting with his Pakistani counterpart on the sidelines of the SAARC Council of Ministers’ meeting Thursday evening.

“I am happy to report that our meeting today is very comprehensive and a cordial one and we discussed all our issues in a very frank, candid and open manner. And we will share our thoughts with the respective prime ministers,” Qureshi told reporters.

“We have agreed mutually that on the 2nd of August the two prime ministers will meet here in Colombo and after their meeting we will come out with a comprehensive statement on our bilateral engagement,” Qureshi said.

There was no immediate reaction from the Indian side.

India and Pakistan have begun the fifth round of their composite dialogue process but the truce violations by Pakistani troops along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir this week have caused a hiccup in their ties.

Qureshi said that Pakistan was always willing to discuss difficult issues with India and wanted to maintain very good bilateral relations.

“To say the least, a lot of steam has been let out of the pressure cooker. I always walk into the room with my Indian counterpart, but most importantly I would like to walk out smiling. And today, I walked out smiling,” he said.

Asked whether Mukherjee reciprocated the sentiment, Qureshi said: “He had a bigger grin.”

The two foreign ministers had met in New Delhi in July to resume the peace process between the two countries.

“The dish we are cooking is for the betterment of both the countries and for the entire region,” Qureshi maintained.

Commenting on the truce violations, Qureshi said there were “very solid mechanisms” in place to bilaterally address issues of this nature and expressed optimism that such incidents “would not and should not” impact the truce that has been in place since November 2003.

“Pakistan has a deep interest in maintaining the ceasefire. Pakistan feels that both countries have gained through this mutual restraint and respect shown by each other. If elements try to disturb peace on the LoC we have solid mechanisms to deal with them,” Qureshi maintained.

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