TEHRAN: The long-awaited meeting between President Asif Ali Zardari and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held on the sidelines of the NAM summit here on Thursday achieved little beyond the former reiterating the desire for close bilateral relations and improved trade and the Indian leader saying little except stressing the need for Pakistan to act firmly against militants blamed for Mumbai attacks.
It was expected that Dr Singh would make a positive announcement about his long overdue visit to Islamabad and that the two sides would set a date for the visit, but he again restricted himself to saying that he would travel to Pakistan at an ‘appropriate time’.
President Zardari said Pakistan and India must make determined efforts and maintain focus to steer their dialogue process in a productive and result-oriented manner. “We have covered a lot of ground but we still have to go a long way.”
The president said it was important to move beyond reiteration of positions to more substantive results.He said Pakistan was committed to pursuing the process of dialogue and engagement with India.
He said Pakistan was keenly looking forward to a visit by Prime Minister Singh at an early date.
Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar described the meeting as “good”.
“There is an ample proof that the political leadership of the two countries is committed to improving and normalising ties with each other,” she told APP.
Ms Khar said Pakistan believed that it was the right approach and the requirement of the times and emerging regional situation to have better ties with all countries, particularly those in the region.
“It is important that we are able to move past the challenges of the past and into a new era of cooperation and being able to resolve our disputes,” she said.
The foreign secretaries of the two countries are scheduled to meet in Islamabad in September to review the second round of dialogue process that resumed after a gap of two years.
The president recalled his meeting with Dr Singh during his daylong private visit to India in April and said he was deeply touched by the warm hospitality extended to him in New Delhi and Ajmer Sharif.
He praised the Indian prime minister’s vision for a peaceful and prosperous South Asia.
The president said Pakistan desired to have friendly, cooperative and good neighbourly relations with India, as it had a deep interest in promoting peace and stability in the region.
President Zardari said the South Asian region had enormous potential and cooperation between the two countries was imperative to exploiting this potential.
The two leaders also noted a substantive improvement in economic and trade relations between the two countries.
The president expressed satisfaction at the completion of the second round of the dialogue process.
According to an Indian news website, Prime Minister Singh told President Zardari that expeditious conclusion of the Mumbai terror attack trial would be a ‘major’ confidence-building measure in bilateral relations.
The prime minister “underlined our terrorism-related concerns. He pressed for an expeditious conclusion of the 26/11 trial and said action taken in this sphere would be a major CBM,” Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said while briefing reporters on the meeting.
Mr Singh said action in Mumbai attack trial in Pakistan would help in bridging the trust deficit and build public support for the kind of relationship India would like to see between the two nations.
“The prime minister said he attached great importance to normalising relations with Pakistan and that he would like to visit that country at a suitable time, that is to say, he would like a well-prepared visit,” Mathai said.
Reiterating India’s desire for peaceful cooperative relations with Pakistan, Prime Minister Singh said there was a need to proceed with a “step-by-step, graduated” approach given the complexity of bilateral relationship.
IRAN PIPELINE: According to APP, a meeting between President Zardari and his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmedinejad reaffirmed the commitment of the two countries to expeditiously completing work on several joint mega projects, including the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, electricity transmission lines and road links.
President Zardari offered condolences to the Iranian leader over recent losses suffered by Iran in an earthquake and said Pakistan was ready to provide all possible help to overcome the effects of the disaster.The president stressed the need for creating viable linkages in the areas of trade and investment, energy and connectivity to bring the people of the two countries closer.
He said there was tremendous potential of trade between the two countries and effective steps were needed to realise the targets set in this regard.
He said the current volume of trade between the two countries was far below the potential.
SRI LANKA: During a meeting with his Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa, the president called for diversifying trade between the two countries and urgently removing the obstacles in way of having a greater economic interaction.—Agencies