Prime Minister meets Zardari

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New York, Sep 24 (UNI) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari met here today on the sidelines of the 63rd session of the UN General Assembly.

Although nothing was officially immediately available about what transpired at the meeting, sources said Dr Singh raised the issue of cross-border terrorism, while Pakistan President talked about the Kashmir issue.

The Pakistan President said at a news conference here a short while ago that he would raise the Kashmir issue with Dr Singh during their meeting.

Mr Zardari described Kashmir as the ''core issue'' between the two countries and said Islamabad would continue to provide moral support to the people of Kashmir.

''The people will have to realise that we are at war, terrorism cannot be eliminated by having wishes and hopes,'' he said.

The meeting, being held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly session, has raised expectations of a momentum to the India-Pakistan Peace Process which has had several hiccups during the past two years following increased terrorist incidence in India and cross-border violations.

Officials accompanying the Prime Minister on the visit said they had high expectations from the meeting as it would give a major boost to the Composite Dialogue Process (CDP).

Dr Singh refused to disclose the details of the meeting, saying it would not be proper to comment before the meeting with Mr Zardari.

He, however, said both countries faced common challenges, including terrorism, and he would tell the Pakistan President that challenges could be converted into opportunities.

Officials said India was in a dilemma on how to deal with the situation arising out of the developments in Pakistan in view of multiple power centres in that country.

They said India would have to remain engaged with Mr Zardari since he is President.

''There is the ISI which was responsible for attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul. Then there is the Army which can be blamed for infiltration. There are also politicians but with some politicians we don't want to deal, while some politicians don't want to deal with us,'' the officials said.

That effectively left Mr Zardari as the only option, the officials added.

They said Mr Zardari had in the past shown considerable interest in developing closer ties with India.

He, too, has a stake in having closer relations with India since he has to establish himself in his country, the officials added.

''It is in his interest also to shake hands with the Prime Minister,'' the officials said.

At the 15th SAARC Summit in Colombo, Pakistan had offered to launch an investigation into the Kabul blast.

The offer was made by Pakistan Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani in his address at the SAARC Summit.

Mr Zardari had recently told a Pakistani newspaper in an interview that he would give Pakistani people ''good news on Kashmir''.


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