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PM tells Zardari to act against terror, two to meet again in Egypt in July
New Delhi, June 16, 2009
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today told Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari in no uncertain terms that Pakistan would have to take strong and credible action to dismantle terrorist groups acting against India from its soil.
He also made it clear that India wants to see the culprits responsible for the November 26, 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, which claimed 166 lives, brought to book at the earliest.
At a 40-minute meeting on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit in the central Russian city of Yekaterinburg today, the two leaders decided that their Foreign Secretaries would meet within the next one month to specifically review the steps taken by Pakistan in this regard.
The decision, while a forward movement in the strained relationship, falls far short of the resumption of the stalled composite dialogue that Pakistan has been seeking for a long time.
Dr Singh and Mr Zardari agreed to meet again exactly a month later on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit scheduled for July 16-17 at Sharm-el-Sheikh in Egypt.
Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and his Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir will meet before that so that they can report to their leaders on the developments. The dates for the meeting between the Foreign Secretaries will be announced later.
"In the meeting, Pakistan would apprise India about the steps it took against terrorism and would also discuss to address the Indian concerns in this regard," Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told the Pakistani media after the meeting.
Mr Menon told mediapersons after the meeting between Dr Singh and Mr Zardari that the two leaders had one-to-one discussions for a good part of the 40 minutes they were together.
What surprised many observers was the rather blunt way in which the usually mild-mannered Dr Singh conveyed his feelings to Mr Zardari at today's interaction between them.
The Prime Minister did not even bother to wait for the photo-opportunity for cameramen to end and started talking even as they were still shooting away. He conveyed to Mr Zardari the full extent of India's strong sentiments on the issue and made it very clear that his limited mandate for today's meeting was to tell him that Pakistani territory should not be used to mount terror attacks against India.
Mr Zardari was visibly embarrassed and urged the Prime Minister to wait till the television crew left the room before they conducted detailed discussions.
Earlier in the day, the two leaders shook hands briefly when they met each other at the SCO Summit and posed for a group photograph with the other heads of state and government attending the meeting.
This was the first meeting between the two leaders after the Mumbai attacks, which India has blamed on elements based in Pakistan. They had last met on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September, 2008.
India suspended the composite dialogue with Pakistan after the attacks and said the process could resume only if Pakistan acted against those behind the terrorist act.
Pakistan has been repeatedly calling for the resumption of the dialogue so that outstanding issues between the two countries could be discussed and sorted out.
Last Tuesday, Dr Singh said in Parliament that India was willing to meet Pakistan more than half-way if Pakistani leaders created the right atmosphere for the resumption of the peace talks by dismantling the terrorist infrastructure aimed at India operating out of its territory.
India and Pakistan are both Observer States at the SCO and the summit has provided an opportunity for the two leaders to break the ice and discuss ways of taking the peace process forward in the given circumstances.
There have also been reports that the United States has been pushing both countries towards early resumption of their talks. Last week, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William J Burns, who met Dr Singh and other Indian leaders in Delhi, told reporters that Washington would welcome such talks, but left the pace, timing and scope of such a dialogue to the two countries.