Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will discuss all issues including the need for Pakistan to take action against perpetrators of 26/11 Mumbai attacks during talks with his counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani in Maldives on Thursday as the two countries seek to build better ties on certain positive developments in recent days.
Dr. Singh will meet Mr. Gilani on the margins of the SAARC Summit in Addu in Maldives on Thursday morning, their third meeting in the last 18 months.
Asked about the issues that will come up during the meeting between them and whether the issue of action against 26/11 accused would come up, official sources said, “All issues and whole range of issues will come up”.
However, the sources said that there have been positive developments in the recent past between the two sides with Pakistan deciding to give MFN status to India and releasing an Indian helicopter which had strayed into Pakistan occupied Kashmir.
The sources said trade relations between the two sides were at a good level now and if MFN status is implemented, it would take bilateral trade to six billion USD per year.
At present, bilateral trade stood around at 2.7 billion dollars and regarding trade through third parties there was no official estimate.
The sources said that Pakistan may have decided on MFN to India “because it was an idea whose time has come and could not be stopped”.
However, the sources pointed out that while relations between the two sides were positive at the moment, at the end of the meeting it cannot be said that there would be agreement on such and such issue.
The sources also said that from a period in 1990 when there was virtually no trade between India and Pakistan, it has now reached different levels.
From about 30 visas in 2003, the number of visas now being issued has gone up to 6000 a month. These included those given to people visiting relatives across LoC, those coming for medical treatment and those coming for business.
The sources said while there were some occasional voices of opposition to the decision to give MFN to India, there was no groundswell of protests against the decision.
A report of the experts committee of the Pakistan Planning Commission has estimated that bilateral trade could go up to USD 10 billion dollars a year.
Asked about Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar’s statement that Pakistan Army was onboard the MFN decision, the sources said the foreign office has already reacted to that.
They said time has come for India to look objectively at Pakistan’s economy while making attempts to step up bilateral trade.