Sunday, November 13, 2011

Not putting blind faith in Gilani: PM

Asserting that he is not putting blinding faith in his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani for pushing bilateral dialogue, PM Manmohan Singh on Saturday said Pakistan's armed forces were on board on the peace process.

He said India wanted to strengthen the hands of the civilian government in Pakistan and that Gilani, whom he met in Male on Thursday, has clearly understood that one more Mumbai-like attack will be a big setback in the peace process.

The Indo-Pak peace process, the resumed dialogue of which is going to take place shortly, was subject to accidents, Singh said while answering a wide range of questions from journalists on board his special flight while returning from Maldives.

He said his visit to Pakistan would take place only when Pakistan takes solid steps against the Mumbai terror attack accused in that country.
"I would not like to go into the details of this matter. But when I did discuss with Pakistan Prime Minister whether Pakistan's armed forces were on board, the feeling I got after a long time was that Pakistan's armed forces were on board," he said in reply to a question on Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar's claim that army was on board the peace initiatives with India.

Asked what prompted him to call Gilani a man of peace, Singh said he had met him four-five times and every time they discussed bilateral issues, his counterpart had agreed that there was no way forward except for peaceful resolution of all problems and that terrorism was not helping the process.

"In fact, he (Gilani) has gone ahead and expressed his reservations that terrorism is a common enemy, it (terrorism) has not helped advance Pakistan's cause. I tend to believe that Pakistan has a democratic government. We would like to strengthen the hands of the democratic government.

"In the desire for normalising the relations, trade and terror-related issues, I think, in Gilani Pakistan has a Prime Minister who is ready to work with us," he said.

Asked about trusting Gilani, the Prime Minister said, "it is not that we are putting blind faith in one individual, however well-meaning he may be. PM Gilani and I believe in normalisation of relations."

Singh said he and Gilani agreed that the resumed round of dialogue should start and it will be imperative in the development of trade relations with the changing attitude of Pakistan by giving Most Favoured Nation (MFN) and the willingness of Pakistan to discuss all issues including that of terrorism.

"So I come back (from Male) with the expectation that the second round with Pakistan will begin very shortly. But what will be the outcome of the dialogue I cannot say now because Indo-Pak relations are subject to accidents," he said.

"We both recognised that if there is one (more) incident like Mumbai attack, then that would be a big setback. I think that has been clearly understood by PM Gilani," he said. (DD-13.11)
PM Manmohan Singh arrives in New Delhi from Maldives 
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh left Male for home on Saturday after concluding a four-day visit to Maldives, where he attended the eight-nation SAARC Summit, held talks with his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani and announced a series of key initiatives for Maldives.
During his stay in Male, the Prime Minister addressed the SAARC Summit on Thursday during which he announced a major trade liberalisation effort in South Asia, drastically slashing the sensitive list for Least Developed Countries under SAFTA from 480 tariff lines to just 25 under which zero basic customs duty will be given for all the removed items.
On the margins of the Summit, Singh held talks with his counterparts from Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh and also met Presidents of Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Maldives.
After meeting his Pakistani counterpart Gilani, Singh declared that time has come to write a "new chapter" in the history of two countries.
India also decided to move towards a Preferential Trade Agreement with Pakistan as both sides agreed to put in place a liberalised visa regime soon.
The decision on the Preferential Trade Agreement with Pakistan under SAFTA will lead to zero customs duty on all traded goods by 2016.
Singh and Gilani also agreed that bilateral trade will be conducted on Most Favoured Nation (MFN) basis.
Singh also met Maldivian President Mohammed Nasheed and announced a USD 100 million Standby Credit Facility and a number of other crucial initiatives, including building capacity of Maldivian security forces.

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