NEW YORK, Sept 9: President Pervez Musharraf’s one-to-one meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of UN summit on Sept 14 could prove to be a major turning point in relations between Pakistan and India. Besides, President Musharraf’s meeting with US President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair have been called crucial in which the world leaders will discuss war against terrorism and the need to bridge the gap between the Islamic world and the West.

But in the backdrop of Dr Singh’s recent meeting with the Kashmiri leaders in New Delhi and the impending talks between President Musharraf and the Kashmiri leaders, the meeting between Indian and Pakistani leaders has attained a new dimension with renewed hope for the peace process to move forward.

US Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns on Thursday spoke about importance of talks between Pakistani and Indian leaders, saying: “We wish both of them well. Because both of those countries, if they can work together and diminish tension in Kashmir and in other parts of their relationship, can be a force for peace and stability.”

Gen Musharraf on Friday stressed the importance of his meeting with Mr Singh, saying both Pakistan and India were optimistic about resolving their bitter dispute over Kashmir. He hoped for a settlement while both the current leaders were in power.

President Musharraf said in an interview with the Associated Press that he had established a good personal rapport with the Indian prime minister.

He said they would discuss Kashmir. “I feel there’s optimism on both sides. There’s a positive response to resolution of the dispute on both sides. We need to achieve this within our tenures. That’s the timeframe.”’

In New Delhi, Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran told journalists that he felt Premier Singh would ‘reciprocate’ President Musharraf’s sentiments on taking the peace process forward. There was a ‘very good personal equation’ between the two leaders, he added.

The proposed laying of gas pipeline between Iran and India through Pakistan is also likely to prominently figure in the talks.

Despite Washington’s objections, India and Pakistan have agreed in principle to go ahead with the pipeline project. Both have tentatively agreed to begin building the 2,800-kilometre pipeline late next year.

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