Pakistan on Friday said it would welcome a visit by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has expressed hope of making a trip to the neighbouring country in the next four months, even as it sought the resumption of the composite dialogue.
"There is an outstanding invitation to the Indian prime minister which was extended to him by Pakistan and was accepted," Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam said.
"We don’t have any timeframe for the visit as yet. Obviously we would welcome the visit," she told a weekly news briefing.
While addressing a rare news conference in New Delhi, Singh was asked why he never visited Pakistan during his tenure as prime minister.
"I still have not given up hope of going to Pakistan before I complete my tenure as Prime Minister," Singh replied. "I would very much like to go to Pakistan. I was born in a
village which is now part of West Punjab but as prime minister of the country I should go to visit Pakistan when conditions are appropriate to achieve solid results," he added.
The foreign office stressed the need to restart the bilateral composite dialogue, which was called off after an Indian soldier was decapitated along the Line of Control in January last year.
"We have a structured dialogue on all outstanding disputes and issues between the two countries. We believe that we should resume as soon as possible. Engagement, formally or informally, is continuing," Aslam said.
Pakistan expects the Commerce Ministers and Commerce Secretaries of the two sides to exchange views on the sidelines of an upcoming SAARC business conclave in India.
"The Pakistan rangers and the BSF held a long and comprehensive meeting. Number of mechanisms already agreed on for peace and tranquillity along the LoC have been activated. But for sustained engagements, we need to resume the composite dialogue," she said.
Aslam further claimed there was a discrepancy in official figures of the two countries regarding the number of Pakistanis jailed in India.
"What we are trying to reconcile is the discrepancy in the numbers indicated in the list given by India and what our records show," she said. "This is something we will be taking up with the Indian government through our High Commission in Delhi because we would like to see every Pakistani in Indian jails accounted for and provided relief."
The two countries exchanged lists of prisoners on January 1. Aslam said the two sides exchange lists of prisoners twice a year "because it is an issue of concern for both the countries".
"We try to find ways and means to reduce their sufferings. For those people who are in jails, we have a judicial commission on that," she added.
Image: Pakistan's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam speaks during a news conference at the foreign ministry in Islamabad.
Photographer: Mian Khursheed/Reuters