Terror India’s concern, K-word Pak obsession
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had a 40-minute one-on-one meeting on April 8, 2012 with Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, who was on a 7-hour-long private visit to India, during which he pitched up terror as a major issue and made a specific reference to 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks mastermind Hafiz Saeed, who now has a $ 10 million US bounty, and told him that the perpetrators of these attacks must be brought to book.
Zardari responded by saying that the issue needed to be discussed at length between the two sides, Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said at a hurriedly convened press conference shortly after the Manmohan-Zardari one-on-one talks that were followed by lunch at the Prime Minister’s official residence at 7, Race Course Road. Mathai also said Home Secretaries of the two countries would meet soon and discuss the issue of Saeed, who continues to be a free bird in Pakistan even after the hefty reward announced by the United States for him.
Mathai said the two leaders had “a friendly and constructive engagement” and the discussion covered “all aspects” of India and Pak bilateral talks. Both the leaders noted that there was steady progress in the Indo-Pak dialogue. Mathai said the Prime Minister expressed appreciation that Pakistan has moved forward on trade-related issues.
The two leaders jointly made brief statements after their meeting with Zardari’s son and ruling Pakistan People’s Party President Bilawal standing on the podium behind his father. The Prime Minister said he accepted Zardari’s invitation to visit Pakistan and added that he would be “happy to visit Pakistan at a mutually convenient time.” Singh said he and Zardari had “constructive talks”. and the two sides were “willing to find practical, pragmatic solutions on all issues”. He said it was a “common wish that ties should normalise between the two countries”. Many issues were discussed and he was satisfied with the outcome, the Prime Minister said.
For his part, Zardari said Pakistan would like to have better relations with India and added that he hoped to meet the Indian Prime Minister soon on Pakistani soil.
While Congress MP and General Secretary Rahul Gandhi attended the lunch and exchanged pleasantries with Bilawal, Rahul’s mother Sonia Gandhi skipped the high-octane event and sent a regret letter to the Prime Minister. She did not give any reasons for her inability to attend the Prime Minister’s lunch. From the Indian side, senior cabinet ministers AK Antony, SM Krishna and P Chidambaram and BJP leaders LK Advani and Sushma Swaraj attended the lunch.
Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik, who too attended the lunch, held a brief, informal and unscheduled meeting his Indian counterpart P Chidambaram who was not in town till yesterday and had been directed by the Prime Minister to be present. Malik described his meeting with Chidambaram as “a very fruitful visit with good meetings… The visit will be a milestone for greater understanding”. Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai too had a brief meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Jalil Jilani on the sidelines of the lunch.
MANMOHAN SINGH: President Zardari is on a private visit and I have taken advantage of this visit to discuss with him, all bilateral issues and I'm very satisfied with the outcome of this visit. And President Zardari has also invited me to visit Pakistan. I would be very happy to visit Pakistan on a mutually convenient date. The relations between India and Pakistan should become normal. That's our common desire. We have a number of issues, and we are willing to find practical, pragmatic solutions to all those issues and that's the message that President Zardari and I would like to convey.
ASIF ALI ZARDARI: I am grateful to Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India, for inviting me for lunch although I'm on a private visit here. But we've had some fruitful bilateral talks together. India and Pakistan are neighbours, we can, we would like to have better relations with India. We've spoken on all topics that we could have spoken about and we're hoping to meet on Pakistan's soil very soon.
BILAWAL BHUTTO (On Twitter): AOA India Peace be with you. I have just landed in Delhi. 1st ever visit.