They will attend Nuclear Security Summit in Washington next week

Even as Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani prepares for bilateral meetings with several world leaders in Washington next week on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit (NSS), the Foreign Office said a separate meeting with his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh looked “unlikely.”

At the same time, the Foreign Office remained non-committal on such a possibility towards the month-end when the two Premiers are slated to attend the summit meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation in Bhutan.

Government sources here claimed that given India's “allergy” for any third party interference in India-Pakistan issues, a bilateral meeting in Washington was unlikely because it would send out a message that the meeting was at the prodding of the U.S. as both Premiers are to hold separate meetings with President Barack Obama.

First engagement

For Mr. Gilani, the NSS will be his first engagement in an international forum dealing with nuclear issues after assuming the chairmanship of the National Command Authority (NCA) last November.

According to the Foreign Office, Mr. Gilani will be one of the lead speakers at the inaugural dinner on April 12 for the heads of state/government participating in the Summit.

Pakistan was represented at the four preparatory meetings for the Summit by its Ambassador to China Masood Khan.

Amid concerns about the security of Pakistan's nuclear assets, Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit told a television channel: “We do not see any possibility of Pakistan's nuclear material or technology falling into wrong hands.”

Further, the Foreign Office said that as a nuclear weapon state, Pakistan is cognisant of its special responsibilities and attaches highest importance to the security of nuclear materials both for civil and military use. “Pakistan has developed and put in place multi-layered fail-safe mechanisms for the safety and security of its nuclear assets.”

NCA meet

Ahead of his Washington tour, Mr. Gilani chaired a meeting of the NCA on Monday to review the policies and measures in place to secure the country's nuclear material and facilities.

Citing the nation's 35-year experience in operating nuclear power plants, NCA members reiterated Pakistan's right to be an equal participant in civil nuclear cooperation at the international level.

On Wednesday, Mr. Gilani sought to take all political parties into confidence on the government's nuclear policy before embarking on his U.S. visit by convening a meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on National Security. Again, Pakistan's right to civil nuclear cooperation at the international level was advocated with members maintaining that the country's track record was testimony to the safety of its nuclear assets.