Kashmir Portal

A digital Kashmir Info Network

Singh, Zardari to shake hands, break ice

Posted by Kashmir Portal on June 16, 2009

New Delhi/Islamabad, June 15: The Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari are scheduled to meet in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg tomorrow, Pakistan’s presidential spokesman said.

 “They will meet on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in a bid to restart the stalled peace process,” Farhatullah Babar, Zardari’s spokesman told reporters today.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the meeting would have a “salutary impact” on bilateral ties.
 “It is a welcome development and will have a salutary impact,” Pakistan’s official APP news agency quoted him as saying here. “The two leaders will have a one-on-one meeting,” he said but refused to “prejudge the outcome”.

The meeting in Russia will be the first direct contact at the top level between the two countries since 26/11 Mumbai attacks. The last high-level Indo-Pak meeting took place last September when Singh met Zardari on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Both leaders are to attend the two-day Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting in Yekaterinburg starting today.
According to Indian foreign ministry officials Manmohan Singh and Asif Ali Zardari are “likely” to meet on Tuesday.
 “They will, I am sure, meet, shake hands, but more than that it is hard to predict,” India’s Foreign Secretary Shivshanker Menon said on June 12.

“It is necessary before that we see certain steps being taken and that we need an atmosphere in which a dialogue can actually bear fruit,” Menon said.

In Islamabad, Pakistan foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Basit confirmed a meeting was “planned tentatively” between Zardari and Singh.

Asked if Zardari would urge India to restart the frozen peace process, Basit said: “This would be our wish. We do believe that resumption of the composite dialogue is important.”

Washington is pushing for easing of tensions between India and Pakistan over Kashmir so that Islamabad can channel its energies into fighting Taliban on its western border with Afghanistan.

The Indian government feels that in trying to mollify the Pakistani main street, Washington may initiate moves to “solve” the Kashmir issue.

US under secretary of State William Burns said in New Delhi on June 11 that his government always welcomes dialogue between India and Pakistan. He said US also wants wishes of the Kashmiri people to be taken into account in a settlement of the Kashmir dispute.

The peace process between India and Pakistan – composite dialogue – has helped rebuild diplomatic, transport and sporting links between the two countries including opening of cross-LoC routes in Jammu and Kashmir for movement of people and goods.

Manmohan-Zardari meeting will come a week after Singh told parliament that India would meet Pakistan “more than halfway” if it cracked down on elements operating against India.

Analysts in New Delhi said Singh, who left for Russia today, was determined to keep talking with Pakistan and his meeting with Zardari may lead to resumption of bilateral dialogue at some level if the two leaders agree to it.

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