'Indian PM must visit Pak to maintain momentum’
Islamabad: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should undertake a reciprocal visit to Pakistan in the near future "if momentum is to be maintained" from President Asif Ali Zardari's trip to India, said a daily on Monday.
A day after Zardari met Manmohan Singh in New Delhi and paid obeisance at Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti's shrine in Ajmer, an editorial in the News International said the Pakistani President was received by the Indian Prime Minister "with all due courtesy and the two spent 40 minutes sans aides and note takers in what truly was a private discussion".
The two men appeared for a brief press conference at which it was announced that the Indian Prime Minister had accepted an invitation to visit Pakistan at a convenient time.
The daily said that "they smiled, shook hands and Indo-Pakistani relations thawed a degree or two".
"There has been no indication of what the two discussed but the talks were said to be cordial, and will have provided an opportunity for the two men to speak frankly to one another such as is rarely accorded to men in their position," it said.
Calling the absence of Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar "surprising", it added that "perhaps she had other engagements".
The editorial said that despite the "semantic inconsistencies of the visit it is significant in that it was the first at this level in seven years".
"It is not easy for Pakistan and India to arrange a tryst. They tend to happen on the periphery of international diplomatic events, or be wrapped about with the trappings of sport - cricket diplomacy.”
"This visit, although it was not explicitly stated, was about consolidating the Confidence Building Measures that have been cautiously embarked upon by the business communities of both states in the last year. Both India and Pakistan could benefit mutually from enhanced trade; we have much to sell to one another."
It went on to say that a "reciprocal, but probably not private, visit by Manmohan Singh should be in the near rather than the far future if momentum is to be maintained".
Taking a dig at Zardari's entourage, the daily said the President "needs to understand that if he is to avoid ridicule on home ground, then 'private' is 'private' - and taking along 25 members of his own family, the chairman of the Pakistan People's Party, Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani and his personal and security staff - all at public expense - does not constitute private".
"It does however constitute a misuse of public funds - a detail overlooked by day-tripping dynasts," it added.