New Delhi: In what is to be the first high-level contact between India and Pakistan since the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will meet President Asif Zardari on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Russia next week.
“They will be in the same room at the same time and they will shake hands and meet and have a conversation,” Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon told reporters here on Friday when asked about the possibility of the two principals meeting in Yekaterinburg on June 16. “But what kind of meeting it will be is hard to predict.” Mr. Menon said separate time had not been kept aside and that the Prime Minister was on a very tight schedule.
Asked whether India was now open to the resumption of the bilateral official dialogue, suspended since last year, the Foreign Secretary said, “There can be nothing more authoritative than what the Prime Minister said on the floor of the House earlier this week.”
On June 9, Dr. Singh had told the Rajya Sabha India can choose its friends but had to live with its neighbours. “When I look at the relations between the United States and Iran, I think, they have gone through difficult periods extending over the last 30 years, but, ultimately, even a mighty power like the U.S. has found it is necessary to come to terms with the reality of the Iranian situation, and, therefore, there is no other alternative but to pursue the path of dialogue.”
Confirming the Prime Minister’s inclination to find a way of engaging Pakistan, senior officials said there would likely be no dramatic breakthrough in Yekaterinburg. The government intends to make haste slowly, they said, giving Islamabad the opportunity to demonstrate its seriousness in investigating and prosecuting the Mumbai case before proposing concrete ways of picking up the threads of the peace process.
Dr. Singh and Mr. Zardari will likely meet again in Sharm-el-Shaikh, Egypt, scheduled for July 11-16.