Dinner diplomacy: India, Pak push for genuine normalization of ties

Manmohan Singh met Yousuf Raza Gilani on the sidelines of India-Pak WC semi-final at Mohali.

Mohali: With the high-voltage cricket World
Cup semi-final providing the backdrop, India and Pakistan
on Wednesday sought to give a push for "genuine normalization" of
their ties with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his
counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani agreeing that it could happen
only in an atmosphere free of terror and violence.

Singh and Gilani held "wide-ranging conversations"
covering all aspects of the bilateral relations as they
watched together the thrilling cricket match for about 90
minutes and continued them over dinner.
The two leaders sought to give impetus to the bilateral
relations, which were hurt by the 26/11 attacks, under the
`Mohali Spirit` that outlined the widening of contacts and
"re-engagement" at various levels.

The two Prime Ministers held "wide-ranging conversations,
not talks," touching upon a number of issues of relevance to
the bilateral relations, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao told
reporters while briefing about the interactions between the
two Prime Ministers.

She said Singh and Gilani reaffirmed the intention to
take the dialogue process forward as they agreed that it was
important to "understand each other better, ... resolve
outstanding issues and at the core of the dialogue is the goal
to normalize relations, pervasive and more permanent
normalization process in an uninterrupted manner".

To a question, Rao underlined that India had "not set
aside or swept under the carpet" the 26/11 and that Singh had
told Gilani that "genuine normalization" in India-Pakistan
ties can take place in an "atmosphere free of terror and

Gilani shared the sentiment, she said.

She said India wants the evidence provided to Pakistan
about those involved in the Mumbai attacks to be used and a
"proper closure" should be brought to it.

In this context, she noted that during the Home
Secretary-level talks held in Delhi on Monday and Tuesday, the
Indian side had taken up the issue of Mumbai attacks.

Gilani told the accompanying Pakistani media that the
talks were "positive" and he discussed with Singh "all the
core issues" between the two countries, an euphemism Pakistan
employs for referring to Kashmir issue.

Rao said the conversations between the two Prime
Ministers were held in "extremely positive" environment with
the cricket match being the backdrop for which Gilani was
invited by Singh.
Noting that every such meeting generates "a positive
momentum and re-engagement" between India and Pakistan," the
Foreign Secretary said the two countries would be seeking
solutions in a "cooperative" manner by availing "opportunities
before us".

She said after the Home Secretary-level meeting, the two
countries will have talks between Commerce Secretaries next
month in Islamabad, followed by Surveyor Generals, Defence
Secretaries, Foreign Secretaries and Foreign Ministers.

Rao side-stepped a question whether Kashmir issue was
discussed between the Prime Ministers, saying they "took up a
number of issues of relevance" to both the countries.

She said the two countries were engaged in efforts for
peace, reconstruction and "healing of wounds".

"We have begun the year 2011 with a positive agenda,
which is a good augury for the future of our relations," Rao

Talking about people-to-people contacts, she said Rajya
Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari and Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar
have invited their Pakistani counterparts to undertake a visit
to India, a step that will help in the engagement between the

To a question, she said Gilani had extended an invitation
to Singh to visit Pakistan and it would be "discussed and
finalized" through diplomatic channels.

The Pakistan Prime Minister also wanted Indian cricket
team to visit his country to play a series as part of
resumption of bilateral sporting ties.

"The sporting contacts epitomize people-to-people
contacts and contributes great deal in cementing of ties," Rao

During the conversation, Singh also pointed out to Gilani
that one of his forefathers Mian Mir had helped in
establishing the Golden Temple in Amritsar.


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