PM Singh says yet to decide on meeting with Nawaz Sharif
Amid suspense over whether he will meet Nawaz Sharif later this month, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said he will have to factor in "certain harsh realities" like India being affected by terror before arriving at a "final decision" on meeting his Pakistani counterpart in New York.
Singh asserted he would be happy to meet Sharif under "normal conditions" as he had respect for the Pakistani premier, who had said the right things about how India-Pakistan relations should evolve.
"But there are certain harsh realities on the ground. If the terror acts do not stop, if those who voice terrorist thoughts move about freely, if there is no significant progress in bringing the culprits of the Mumbai massacre to book - that I have to factor in before arriving at a final decision," he said.
The uncertainty surrounding a Singh-Sharif meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York later this month comes against the backdrop of 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Mohammad Saeed not being brought to justice in Pakistan and moving around freely in that country, and also the lack of progress in the Mumbai attacks trial in Islamabad.
Singh was talking to reporters on board a special Air India plane on his return home after attending the G20 summit in the Russian city of St Petersburg.
He was asked about the possibility of meeting Sharif amid mounting speculation on this issue and a view in the country that he should avoid meeting his Pakistani counterpart. The BJP has voiced its opposition to any meeting between Singh and Sharif.
"I have always maintained that we can choose our friends, but we have no choice with regard to our neighbours. And therefore, under normal conditions, I would be happy to meet with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whom I respect, who has said the right things about how relations between our two countries should evolve," he said.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister said he was very sad to hear of the killing of prominent Bengali writer Sushmita Banerjee by the Taliban in Afghanistan and described her as a noble person.
"It is a very sad development. She was living in Afghanistan for a long number of years. She was engaged in very important social work. So I feel very sad that such a noble person should have been the victim of the Taliban's wrath," he said.
Singh said the incident showed that Afghanistan is still plagued by the Taliban menace.
"The government and people of Afghanistan, ultimately, will have to make up their minds whether the Taliban philosophy, particularly with regard to the role of women in society, is the theme which should decide their approach to life," he said.