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Dr Singh-Zardari meeting serves short term purposes
Sheela Bhatt in New York | September 25, 2008 08:49 IST
Last Updated: September 25, 2008 10:08 IST
The one-on-one meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari at the Millennium Plaza hotel in New York on Wednesday lasted for over 40 minutes and gave a positive spin to the bilateral relationship.
The interaction between the two sides, which lasted some 90 minutes, was followed by the joint statement that was sprinkled with rhetoric and some special announcements. These included the commencement of trade across the Line of Control [Images] on the Srinagar- Muzaffarabad route from October 21.
During the meeting, Zardari was expectedly expressive and seemingly in awe of Dr Singh.
Even Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon told the media that, "He (Zardari) did hug him (Dr Singh); he was very warm and very friendly. And the atmosphere throughout was excellent. There was a good discussion. That's why both sides expressed satisfaction at the end."
The meeting between Zardari and Dr Singh came only a few hours after Mumbai Police Commissioner Hasan Gafoor claimed that the police had foiled a major terror attack in Mumbai. The police also claimed that Roshan Khan, chief of the Indian Mujahideen [Images], is suspected to be in Pakistan.
Obviously Dr Singh had to ensure that he raised the issue of terrorism strongly enough to counter the Bharatiya Janata Party, which wants to make the issue of terrorism its main election plank.
The Indian side ensured that the issue of terrorism was mentioned in the joint statement which said, "Both leaders acknowledged that the peace process has been under strain in recent months. They agreed that violence, hostility and terrorism have no place in the vision they share of the bilateral relationship and must be visibly and verifiably prevented. Severe action would be taken against any elements directing or involved in terrorists' acts."
Menon, while briefing the media on the meeting, promptly acknowledged that issue of terror is 'the issue' between two countries. He said, "They discussed it and you saw there is a very strong statement on terrorism."
He added with emphasis, "It's an issue. I don't think anybody has said that it is not an issue. That's why the process has been under stress. The joint statement itself acknowledges that it's under the stress. So we try and address those issues."
The joint statement also said that Zardari has assured Dr Singh that Pakistan stands by the commitments it made on January 6, 2004, when then President Pervez Musharraf [Images] had reassured then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee that he will not permit any territory under Pakistan's control to be used to support terrorism in any manner.
The meeting has taken place at time when Zardari is struggling to avoid international isolation while tackling terrorism inside Pakistan.
The positive message of the meeting is a substantive recognition for Zardari, who is yet to stabilise his position. It is not yet known if he has won the support of the powerful Pakistan army [Images].
The cautious and bland language of the joint statement shows that nobody is under any illusion that Zardari will be able to deliver.
The deadly blasts at Mariott Hotel in Islamabad [Images] has shaken Pakistan to its core. Zardari wants his dysfunctional state to survive and India's positive attitude in strengthening bilateral relations could only be good news for the troubled neighbour.
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