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Need solid outcome to visit Pakistan: PM

Last updated on: March 27, 2012 22:41 IST

Gilani wants power from Punjab and fought hard to get India MFN status. Nikhil Lakshman listens in on Air India One

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will only travel to Pakistan if he is assured of a "solid" outcome from the visit.

Waiting in the Leaders Lounge at the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul on Tuesday afternoon, the prime minister, accompanied by National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon and Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai, ran into his Pakistani counterpart Yousaf Raza Gilani and Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar.

After exchanging greetings and agreeing that things were moving quite well in bilateral relations, Dr Singh thanked Gilani for granting India Most Favoured Nation trading status.

Gilani said it was his intention to improve trade ties with India and the MFN status is a manifestation of that intention.

He revealed that it had not been entirely easy for his government to get the MFN deal done in Pakistan, but he had decided to move ahead with it.

"He said he had worked very hard on it," Dr Singh told reporters in a brief encounter on Air India One, the special aircraft transporting him and his delegation back from his three-day visit to South Korea.

The Pakistan prime minister also asked Dr Singh if India could supply power to his country from Punjab. "I told him we will look into it," the prime minister told reporters.

"He said 'You should come to Pakistan'," Dr Singh said, adding, "I told him after something solid." Neither the prime minister nor the foreign secretary, who briefed reporters later, clarified what diplomatic breakthroughs would be considered "solid."

Dr Singh also met with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyep Reccep Erdogan on Tuesday.

With Harper, he discussed unfinished economic business that needs to be tied up like a social security agreement between both countries; the vote on Sri Lanka in the United Nations Human Rights Commission, and other issues.

With Erdogan, who will fly to Iran directly after the NSS, Dr Singh discussed the situation in Syria (the Turkish leader felt the Bashar al-Assad regime in Damascus is responsible for the large number of deaths, but both leaders want a UN process to bring about a peaceful resolution to the bloody Levantine crisis).

Erdogan told Dr Singh that he has been in touch with the Iranian regime on that country's nuclear programme. Unlike the past when Erdogan and Brazilian leader Lula conducted diplomacy independent of other efforts, the Turkish leader is placing his bets this time on the P5+1 engagement with Tehran, which he hopes will bring down temperatures in the region.

Most of the discussions with Erdogan, who has emerged as an influential leader in the Arab world, interestingly, were focused on bilateral relations. The Indian prime minister was pleasantly surprised to learn that Turkey is the second biggest player in building infrastructure, after China, and welcomed Turkish investment in India's infrastructure projects.

Istanbul airport, interestingly, is managed by GMR, the Andhra Pradesh-based infrastructure major, who also operates Delhi and Hyderabad airports, and also owns the Delhi Daredevils, which Virender Sehwag captains in the IPL.

Nikhil Lakshman On board Air India One