On a proposed Gilani-Manmohan meeting during SAARC summit

Pakistan is still awaiting India's response on Islamabad's proposal for a meeting between Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of the coming summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in Bhutan later this month.

Foreign Office spokesperson Abdul Basit told journalists here on Saturday that Pakistan had also outlined a road map for resumption of dialogue — first in New York and then at the Foreign Secretary-level talks in New Delhi in February. “We had proposed a meaningful engagement, that included a summit meeting between the two Prime Ministers on the sidelines of the SAARC conference.”

Mr. Basit sounded hopeful of a response, pointing out there was still a fortnight left for the summit. Pakistan was keen on a meaningful dialogue to achieve lasting peace on the basis of sovereign equality and mutual respect, he said.

Asked if the proposed meeting in Thimphu was conditional on India accepting the dialogue road map, Mr. Basit said the proposals included summit-level talks between the two Premiers.

As for the chances of a meeting between the two in Washington — both left for the U.S. on Saturday morning — the spokesperson said: “They will be in the same room along with other Heads of State/Government; they may have an encounter and shake hands.”

Beyond this, Pakistan did not expect any substantial interaction between the two Prime Ministers, particularly since this could result in Dr. Singh attracting the charge from his political opponents back home of succumbing to U.S. pressure. Within the Foreign Office, there was an acknowledgement of the efforts being made by Dr. Singh to step off the beaten track from time to time and the ire he drew from a segment of Indian polity and the media for such “deviations.”

Asked if Pakistan planned to approach the World Bank for mediation in the issue of India constructing 313 dams in Jammu and Kashmir, Mr. Basit refused to set a time-frame. “We have serious concerns,” he said, particularly on the Kishan-Ganga project. In this regard, Pakistan was proceeding fast to resolve differences and disputes as per the Indus Waters Treaty.

Conceding that the sharing of river waters was a serious issue, Mr. Basit said it was on the top of Pakistan's agenda.

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