Manmohan-Gilani meeting scheduled for Friday in Maldives
Ahead of the Manmohan Singh-Yusuf Raza Gilani meeting next Friday in the Maldives, India said there had been “some positive indicators” emanating from Islamabad.
Briefing journalists on the two-day South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit on Saturday, Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai cited the quick return of the military helicopter that had strayed into Pakistani territory, the in-principle decision by Pakistan to give most favoured nation (MFN) status to India and the visit of a Pakistani Judicial Commission to Mumbai.
This will be the third prime ministerial meeting after Dr. Singh and Mr. Gilani met in Thimphu last year, on the margins of the SAARC summit, leading to the resumption of dialogue on several issues. They met later in Mohali on March 30 during the India-Pakistan cricket World Cup semi-final.
The Maldives engagement comes just at the head of the start of the second round of the resumed dialogue process.
“All issues in bilateral relations will be discussed,” Mr. Mathai said about the agenda for the meeting on the sidelines of the SAARC summit, with the intention being to predicate India-Pakistan bilateral ties on a “more stable and normal basis.''
Pointing out that India-Pakistan ties should be such that minor incidents do not derail the overall trend towards a more cooperative and constructive relationship, Mr. Mathai said: “The issue of trading is one on which we have been holding out the hand of cooperation to Pakistan.”
Asked about the tendency of India-Pakistan bilaterals overshadowing SAARC meets, a trend that was commented upon by the coming SAARC summit host and President of the Maldives Mohd. Nasheed in Thimphu, Mr. Mathai threw the ball in the media's court.
Big ticket event
“The question is, who makes it a big ticket event? I think I am looking at those responsible for that. So, I leave it to you to introduce a sense of balance. We are meeting as eight sovereign countries who are all equals [sic] in the SAARC framework, and certainly we would like the focus to remain essentially on the common business of SAARC.
“And once we get beyond the common business of SAARC we have vital relations with all these countries. And certainly some of them have very substantive business with each other. So, we would certainly hope that the focus will not be diverted to one single event,” he replied.