Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday confirmed that he would have a meeting with his Pakistani counterpart M Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Singh ended the uncertainty over his meeting with Sharif in New York just a day after a Pakistani judicial commission started recording the statements of Indian witnesses for the trial of the seven Lashkar-e-Toiba operatives in connection with the November 26, 2008, terrorist attacks in Mumbai. The cross-examination of the witnesses in Mumbai is expected to hasten the hitherto tardy trial of the 26/11 masterminds in Pakistan.
Hours after Singh said he looked forward to meeting Sharif, Pakistan Prime Minister told journalists in New York that he would be very happy to meet his counterpart from India. “We hope to pick up the threads from where we left it 1999,” Sharif was quoted by Press Trust of India. He was referring to his meeting with the then Prime Minister of India, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, in Lahore in 1999.
The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, however, criticised Singh’s decision to meet Sharif in New York. “All these years, since 2004, Pakistan has been indulging in cross-border terrorism, including the famous ones like the 26/11 attack on Mumbai.
Then, recently, we have seen their behaviour on the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir, which is totally objectionable. So, is this the right atmosphere and the right time to talk to Pakistan at the summit level?” wondered BJP leader Yashwant Sinha.
Singh made public his meeting with Sharif just before leaving New Delhi on a six-day-tour to Washington DC and New York, both for a meeting with US President Barack Obama as well as to attend the 68th session of the UN General Assembly.
Sources, however, said that although Singh and Sharif would review the bilateral relations, no substantive outcome was expected and no joint statement would be issued after the meeting.
While New Delhi noted the “nice statements” Sharif had made about bilateral relation before and after being elected as Prime Minister, Singh would look forward to listen to him on what his government had to offer to address the concerns of India.
They would also discuss about trade and economic relations between the two countries, including possibility of supply of power from India to Pakistan and cooperation in hydrocarbon sector, said the sources.