Indo-Pak ties to be real focus of SAARC Summit

Climate change is the official agenda for the 16th SAARC Summit beginning here tomorrow but the real focus will be on `temperature` in Indo-Pak relations, which have always overshadowed such meetings.

Last Updated: Apr 27, 2010, 18:53 PM IST

Thimphu: Climate change is the official
agenda for the 16th SAARC Summit beginning here tomorrow but
the real focus will be on `temperature` in Indo-Pak relations,
which have always overshadowed such meetings.

Will they or won`t they -- is the question everybody is
asking about the prospects of a meeting between Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza
Gilani on the sidelines of the summit.

Since the inception of SAARC in 1985, the agenda of
multilateral summits in the past has always been eclipsed by
the bilateral issues of the two Asian giants.
For nearly 300 journalists who have descended on this
tiny, remote capital of one of the smallest countries in the
world, the big story will be the shadow boxing between India
and Pakistan.

Indications about the Singh-Gilani meeting, which could
also take up the water sharing dispute, came from both India
and Pakistan.

"We will be coming under one roof. So, if we come at
the same time, it is obvious we will run into each other,"
Singh told reporters in New Delhi yesterday.

In Islamabad, Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Abdul
Basit also indicated that the two Prime Ministers would meet
and said efforts would be to resume the composite dialogue,
halted by India after the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

"We would like to reactivate the engagement process if
the meeting takes place," he said.

On the expected outcome of the meeting, he said it may
not yield "instant results" but if the composite dialogue
process between the two countries is reactivated, it will be a
positive development.

Sources said the two Prime Ministers are likely to meet
tomorrow, soon after Singh arrives here to attend the Summit
of eight countries.

Singh and Gilani would hold talks for the first time
after their meeting in Sharm-el-Sheikh in Egypt last year
during which the controversial joint statement with a mention
of Balochistan was issued.
Singh and Gilani had exchanged pleasantries during the
Nuclear Security Summit in Washington a fortnight back, but
did not have any discussions.

Since they did not formally hold talks in Washington,
there are high hopes that they would meet this time on the
margins of the SAARC summit here.

If the two leaders meet here tomorrow, Singh is likely to
seek an update on the probe and trial in the Mumbai attacks
case being conducted in Pakistan.

Singh and Gilani had earlier met on the sidelines of the
2008 SAARC Summit in Colombo as well.

During the 2002 SAARC summit in Kathmandu, the then
Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf had extended a "hand of
friendship" which former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee
had cautiously welcomed, but relations between the two powers
remained fraught following the attack on Indian Parliament in
December 2001.

Musharraf made a dramatic gesture by extending his hand
to Vajpayee, but the Indian leader promptly told him his
handshake must be followed by deeds like curbing terrorism
emanating from Pakistan.

PTI