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PM non-commital on meeting Musharraf in Havana

Written by: Staff

Frankfurt, Sept 11: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today chose to be non-committal about the possibility of meeting Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf on the sidelines of the 14th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit on September 15 and 16 in Havana.

In a brief chat with reporters on board his special aircraft on his way to Brasilia and Havana, Dr Singh cautiously only said he was hopeful of meeting Gen Musharraf in Havana.

''Efforts are being made by both sides to arrange the meeting,'' he said.

When asked to comment on BJP President Rajnath Singh's statement in Dehradun that the Prime Minister should not meet Gen Musharraf, Dr Singh said ''we will cross that bridge when we come to it.'' On Friday, Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran had told mediapersons in New Delhi that dates for the stalled Foreign Secretary-level talks with Pakistan could be set if the meeting between the two leaders produced ''satisfactory'' results, especially on the issue of cross-border terrorism.

''New Delhi would like to see a willingness on the part of Pakistan to work together with India to fight the scourge of terrorism,'' he said, adding that the Pakistan President had once described it as a ''shared challenge, shared threat.'' Asked to specify what steps India would like Pakistan to take in this regard, he said Islamabad was fully aware of what was required of it and should act accordingly.

The Foreign Secretary also said it was important for Pakistan to recognise that it was difficult to ensure the success of the peace process unless the problem of cross-border terrorism was addressed by it in a substantive way.

There has been a stalemate in the peace process between the two countries after the July 11 serial blasts in Mumbai, which claimed over 180 lives.

Following the blasts, the Foreign Secretary-level talks between the two countries, scheduled for July 23-24, were postponed indefinitely, with India making it clear to Islamabad that the dialogue process could move forward only if it stopped supporting cross-border terrorism.

Dr Singh himself had indicated last month that he was not averse to a meeting with Gen Musharraf, pointing out that a country could choose its friends but not its neighbours.

At the same time, he had made it clear that there could be no progress in the peace process unless India was satisfied that Pakistan was taking firm steps to curb cross-border terrorism.

''As Prime Minister, it would be very difficult on my part to say that the peace process with Pakistan would continue when common people are made the target of cross-border terrorism,'' he had said at a press conference in Bhubaneshwar.

He told reporters on the margins of an event at Rashtrapati Bhavan on Thursday that he was ''disappointed'' with Pakistan for not doing enough to honour its commitment to rein in terror.

The last meeting between Dr Singh and Gen Musharraf was in September, 2005, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

Before that, Gen Musharraf had visited Delhi in April last year to watch a cricket match betwen India and Pakistan. During his meeting with Dr Singh, he had reassured India that he would not allow Pakistani territory to be used for terrorist activities against this country.


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