Tackling terror must for good ties, Zardari told
NEW DELHI LINKING the progress in bilateral ties to Pakistan taking action against Hafiz Saeed and others responsible for Mumbai terror attacks, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday plainly told President Asif Ali Zardari that this was important for normalisation of relations between the two neighbours.
Zardari, who made a stopover in the capital for little over two hours on his way to pilgrimage to Ajmer, heard from Singh a reiteration of India’s commitment to engage with Pakistan but was left in no doubt that action on terrorism was an essential step towards that.
Singh brought up the issue of terrorism “upfront” and activities of LeT founder Hafiz Saeed, mastermind of 26/11 terror strikes in Mumbai, on whom the US announced a $10 million bounty although Pakistani leader had said in Lahore yesterday that he did not expect Singh “will make me sit (and discuss only) this issue.” “Taking up the issue of terrorism, the Prime Minister told Zardari that it was imperative that perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack be brought to justice and prevent activities aimed against India from Pakistani soil. He also discussed the activities of Hafiz Saeed,” Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai told reporters in New Delhi.
“The problem of terrorism which is a major issue by which the Indian people will judge progress in bilateral relationship,” Mathai quoted Singh as having told Zardari.
The 40-minute one-on-one meeting between the two leaders covered a wide gamut of bilateral, regional and global issues and in brief comments to the media, Singh and Zardari termed their talks as “constructive” and “fruitful” where they agreed to continue with step-by-step approach in addressing issues like Kashmir, Siachin and Sir Creek among other matters.
The Indian Prime Minister agreed to visit Pakistan at the invitation of President Zardari, who said he hopes to see him on Pakistani soil “very soon”.
Emerging from his 40- minute one-on-one meeting with Zardari at his residence at Race Course Road, Singh said, “President Zardari has also invited me to visit Pakistan. I will be very happy to visit Pakistan on mutually convenient date.” Zardari, who spoke after him, said, “We are hoping to meet on Pakistani soil very soon.” Official sources said there is no time frame attached to the meeting and underlined that such a visit will take place only after dialogue process between the two countries makes significant progress.
“We need to take the dialogue forward. And the expectation is that the dialogue process will make the kind of progress which is solid and enough to make it a very substantive visit,” a source said when asked about Prime Minister’s possible visit to Pakistan.
Singh played host to Zardari and his son Bilawal along with few other members of 40-strong entourage at his Race Course Road residence.
External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, Home Minister P Chidambaram, Rahul Gandhi, Bharitya Janata Party leaders L K Advani and Sushma Swaraj and Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik were among the 20 guests at the lunch.
Amid the bonhomie at the lunch he hosted, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asked Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari to pray for peace in both the countries at the shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti in Ajmer.
“Towards the end of lunch, Prime Minister told President Zardari that since he was going to Ajmer Sharif, he should pray before Khwaja sahib for peace in both our countries,” Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj said on micro-blogging site Twitter. “President Zardari promised to do that,” she said.
Swaraj and senior BJP leader L K Advani were among the select guests invited for lunch with Zardari.
“Attended lunch hosted by the Prime Minister for President Zardari and his team,” she tweeted.