Promising the prospect of continuous high-level engagements instead of sporadic one-off meetings, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday held talks on a number of issues, including action against Jama'at-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed. Though Saeed was not the dominant subject, it was mentioned “upfront” by Dr. Singh. Dr. Singh emphasised need to prosecute Saeed, the alleged strategist behind the 2008 Mumbai attacks, during the 40-minute one-to-one talks. He said action against all those involved in the terror attacks in India would be a major issue by which people here would judge their ties with Pakistan.
Mr. Zardari referred to the legal issues involved and both leaders agreed that a structured discussion on Saeed could be held during the coming Home Secretary-level talks in Islamabad. They were also hopeful of the meeting easing the onerous curbs on travel that had stifled people-to-people interaction, Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai told journalists.
Mr. Zardari had primarily come to pay obeisance at the dargah of Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer and accommodated the Delhi leg of his visit following a request from the Indian side.
While India seemed to highlight terror and trade, Mr. Zardari felt both sides needed to resolve the disputes over Kashmir, the Siachen glacier and Sir Creek. But both leaders agreed that they should proceed “step by step” in repairing the ties.
The two leaders covered all aspects of relationship as well as regional and global issues of common interest and noted the positive signs that emerged after the dialogue resumed — peace on the border, fewer incidents of cross-border terror, end to slanging matches at the governmental level and attempts to normalise trade.
They expect interactions between the Commerce Ministers and Secretaries to move ahead with the next identified lot of trade-enhancing measures, including a shorter negative list of imported items from Pakistan.
“We are willing to find practical and pragmatic solutions to all our issues. That is the message President Zardari and I wish to convey,” Dr. Singh said in a brief statement to the media.
Mr. Zardari responded in a similar vein, saying discussions were held on “all topics that we could have spoken about.”
Some issues such as that of imprisoned Pakistan biologist Khalil Chishti were raised at a small lunch that followed the talks.
Dr. Singh regretted the death of a large number of Pakistani soldiers at Siachen. He said India would be happy to provide any humanitarian assistance Pakistan required.
On Mr. Zardari's invitation to Dr. Singh to visit Islamabad, sources in the Ministry of External Affairs said they expected the dialogue process to make the kind of solid enough progress that would make it possible.