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PM Manmohan Singh may visit Pakistan in July

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, Apr 30: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is likely to visit Pakistan in July if the ongoing Indo-Pak negotiations on the troop withdrawal from the Siachen glacier are successful, senior Indian officials say.

However, India would closely monitor the level of infiltration from Pakistan in the months of May and June before taking a final decision on the visit.

The officials said usually the infiltration from the other side of the border increases in the summer once the snow starts melting.

The feeling in diplomatic circles is that the level of infiltration from Pakistan has considerably reduced but there is no guarantee that Islamabad will continue with this 'positive' trend in bilateral ties.

"If the situation remains normal on the border with no increase in infiltration, the Prime Minister may visit Pakistan in the second half of July," the officials said.

There are indications that Dr Singh is keen to visit the neighbouring country but feels that the two countries must reach some understanding on the Siachen and Sir Creek issues to create a conducive atmopshere for the success of his tour.

The officials indicated that negotiations were in an advanced stage on both the issues between India and Pakistan. However, the Army is said to have certain reservations over the proposed formula being worked out for the resolution.

In his recent comments, the Prime Minister had stated that he had been extended an invitation to visit Pakistan by President Pervez Musharraf and he would undertake the journey to the neighbouring country ''at an appropriate time.''

Asked if the two countries were close to an accord on the Siachen issue, Dr Singh said it was too early for him to announce anything at this stage, even though he acknowledged that relations with Pakistan had improved. The officials said Pakistan was equally keen to host the Indian Prime Minister. Islamabad has extended the invitation to Dr Singh as and when any responsible functionary from Islamabad met the Prime Minister.

Troop withdrawal from Siachen has been on the Indo-Pak talks agenda for over two decades but has been stuck on the question of demarcating current positions.

Pakistan has been insisting on unconditional withdrawal, but India has refused to vacate the glacier without delineating the areas under each side's control.

The two sides set in motion the third round of the composite dialogue process in January this year. Besides Siachen and Sir Creek issues, the two countries have been discussing six issues under the composite dialogue process. They are: Jammu and Kashmir, peace and security, Tulbul Navigation Project, trade and economic cooperation, cultural links and terrorism and drug trafficking.

The dialogue process was started after the historic meeting between then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and President Musharraf on the margins of the twelfth SAARC Summit in Islamabad.

Dr Singh, who assumed office as the Prime Minister in May 2004 following the Lok Sabha elections, committed himself to carrying forward the dialogue process initiated by his predecessor.


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