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India, Pakistan likely to talk again in Washington

New Delhi, March 3 (IANS) With last week’s foreign-secretary level talks ending in a stalemate, the leaders of India and Pakistan are expected to meet on the sidelines of a global security summit on nuclear security in Washington next month in yet another bid to revive their stalled dialogue.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is set to go to Washington to attend the two-day Nuclear Security Summit starting April 12 that will focus on expanded global cooperation to prevent atomic material from falling into the hands of terrorists and non-state actors.

The conference, an initiative of US President Barack Obama, will be attended by leaders of 44 countries, including India and Pakistan.

It is not yet clear whether Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari or Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani will represent Pakistan at the summit. In Islamabad, Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit has confirmed Islamabad’s participation in the conference, but added that the composition of the delegation has not yet been decided.

If Gilani or Zardari goes to Washington, there is a strong possibility of a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the security summit in Washington, well-placed sources told IANS.

‘Nothing has been decided yet. We don’t know who is representing Pakistan,’ the sources added.

If the meeting does take place, it will be the first interaction between the leaders of the two countries since they met in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh in July last year.

A positive meeting could create the right atmospherics for a more constructive interaction on the sidelines of the SAARC summit in the Bhutanese capital Thimphu towards April-end.

In Sharm el-Sheikh, Manmohan Singh had taken a calculated gamble to delink terrorism from the composite dialogue process and included a reference to Balochistan in the joint statement, leading to a strong domestic backlash against alleged capitulation by India.

This time around, the atmospherics are different.

The Feb 25 talks between foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan did not lead to any breakthrough, but a tacit understanding has been struck to keep the ball rolling as it were.

Manmohan Singh, who is widely seen to be behind India’s initiative to invite the Pakistani foreign secretary for talks, has kept the possibilities of dialogue alive by saying that he is ready to go the extra mile if Pakistan cooperates in addressing India’s concerns over terror.

Days after the attack on Indians in Kabul, in which the Afghan intelligence suspect the hand of Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba, Manmohan Singh made it clear that although there was no alternative to engagement with Pakistan, any meaningful dialogue will depend on Pakistan’s response to India’s concerns over cross-border terror.

‘All problems between India and Pakistan can be resolved through meaningful bilateral dialogue if only Pakistan would take a more reasonable attitude in dealing with those terrorist elements who target our country,’ Manmohan Singh told reporters while returning from Riyadh Monday.

‘If Pakistan cooperates with us, there is no problem that we can’t solve.’

Any likely bilateral meeting between Manmohan Singh and the Pakistani leader will depend on Islamabad’s action on the 10 dossiers provided by New Delhi linking terrorists in that country with various terror activities, including the Mumbai carnage, in India.

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