SAARC summit: Optimism marks run-up to Gilani-Singh meeting

Published: November 10, 2011
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Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar with Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir at the 17th SAARC foreign ministers conference in Addu. PHOTO: AFP

Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar with Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir at the 17th SAARC foreign ministers conference in Addu. PHOTO: AFP

Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar with Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir at the 17th SAARC foreign ministers conference in Addu. PHOTO: AFP The MFN status was part of efforts to normalise ties between the two nuclear-armed rivals, says Foreign Minister Khar. PHOTO: REUTERS

ADDU CITY, MALDIVES: The scenic setting provided a perfect backdrop for the positive note struck on Wednesday by foreign ministers of Pakistan and India ahead of a meeting between the two countries’ premiers in the picturesque Addu City, located in the southern Maldives’ atoll of Seenu.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh will push for stabilising the fragile peace process between the two neighbours when they meet here on Thursday (today) at the sidelines of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) summit, which kicks off the same day.

The theme of the 17th Saarc summit is “building bridges”, with the intention to improve economic and cultural ties among member countries. The meeting comes as Pakistan’s move to grant an elusive trading status to India gathers steam – delivering a shot in the arm to the hitherto elusive goal of a greater regional trading bloc.

India’s Foreign Minister SM Krishna and his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar, who attended a Saarc foreign ministers’ meeting, spoke optimistically of the improvements in ties achieved during talks over the last few months.

Referring to a “very positive atmosphere” between the countries, Krishna said that the “trust deficit” with Pakistan was shrinking.

Khar also said that the environment had improved. “I can certainly say from our side that we look at this environment to have improved considerably. The trust deficit that typically existed between the two countries for many, many years has been reduced,” she said.

Both leaders also acknowledged the difficult work left to do, not least tackling the vexed subject of Kashmir. “We have many, many more miles to move ahead,” Khar said.

PM supports SAARC

Before leaving Lahore for Maldives, Gilani added his voice to the recent chorus of pro-normalisation statements. The PM said his coalition government views Saarc as the ideal platform for Pakistan and India to continue their dialogue on a variety of issues.

Addressing the media at the city’s old airport, Gilani said that tension between Pakistan and India was now significantly less than it has been in the past. Previous summits of the regional body have been largely overshadowed by the India-Pakistan dynamic.

Gilani echoed recent sentiments from leaders on both sides of the border, emphasising that Pakistan and India have realised they must solve problems through dialogue and negotiation, and work together for the betterment of the region.

The PM said that he would meet five leaders during his stay in Maldives, including Manmohan Singh. The two prime ministers last met in March when Gilani accepted Singh’s invitation to watch the India-Pakistan cricket World Cup semi-final. They last held formal talks at the 2010 Saarc summit in Bhutan.

The talks also come just a week after Pakistan decided in principle to grant India the status of most favoured nation in a development that seeks to improve trade ties.

In addition, the two prime ministers are expected to discuss their differences on the Afghan endgame. Pakistan has voiced concerns over a seemingly growing Indian influence in Afghanistan.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai will also attend the SAARC summit, along with the leaders of Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Gilani was accompanied by three federal ministers: Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Communication Minister Arbab Alagmgir and Port and Shipping Senator Babar Khan Ghauri.

A foreign office statement said that the PM, in his keynote address, is expected to highlight matters relating to poverty alleviation, energy cooperation, interaction in agriculture and rural development in South Asia.

(With additional input from Abdul Manan in Lahore and AFP)

Published in The Express Tribune, November 10th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (21)

  • Nadir
    Nov 9, 2011 - 8:28PM

    Those people who beleive that MFN status compromises Paksitan’s position on Kashmir should stop and think whether a tottering economy that can barely break even is going to help the Kashmiri cause?

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  • Mohammad Ali Siddiqui
    Nov 9, 2011 - 8:30PM

    To give the status of Most Favoured Nation to India is a decision of Government of Pakistan and of the people of Pakistan.

    The government come and goes, but the people will remain there.

    People of Pakistan do not think that India is a Most Favoured Nation of Pakistan.

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  • Fahad Raza
    Nov 9, 2011 - 8:32PM

    In Pakistan India relations crest and troughs do come but this time around no doubt the CBMs are on a very high note. Good for the region. Its better to shake hands with Indians than with Americans.

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  • antanu g
    Nov 9, 2011 - 8:41PM

    Pakistan’interest lies with peaceful coexistence with India and same does apply with I.dia also. Both should ignore the voice of dessents and proceed further in resolute manners.

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  • ali
    Nov 9, 2011 - 9:46PM

    Her Masters Voice..may I say more.

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  • ashok sai
    Nov 9, 2011 - 9:51PM

    Why so many assurance ???

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  • dude
    Nov 9, 2011 - 10:02PM

    Hi Mohammad Ali Siddiqui,
    In india people elect the governement so government represent the people. what the situation in Pakistan?

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  • V K Bajaj (New Delhi)
    Nov 9, 2011 - 10:07PM

    Indian Foreign Minister has declared today that the relation between two countries have improved and both are coming closer to each other.

    In my opinion the credit is to Ms Khar! Earlier she visited India and Indian praised for her Beautiful efforts to normalize relations.

    Else where I have already commented that Ms Khar is a future PM or President of Pak.She brought back USA over Haqqanni issue and at Istanbul she proved herself while meeting with Afghan President and Turkish leaders.

    India may or may not be MFN for Pak – but positive efforts are there – though many may not like a cordial relations.

    Once again I repeat. Beautiful People always think Beautifully. Beautiful tools and Beautiful Devices are employed at a Beautiful platform on a Beautiful occasion to get Beautiful result. Khar! May you live long.
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  • MD
    Nov 9, 2011 - 10:18PM

    @Mohammad Ali Siddiqui,
    People of Pakistan do not think that India is a Most Favoured Nation of Pakistan.
    You seems to have the most misplaced idea about MFN, nobody is asking you to love India, it is just a mandatory trade deal under WTO treaty, which India instantly obliged and granted the MFN status to Pakistan 16 long years ago. Pakistan too was obliged/pledged to grant same status to India, but, sadly, failed to do so. Thank the government of India for not lodging any complaint against Pakistan with WTO, otherwise, your country would have been banned from doing business with the rest of the world.
    All that your government, now trying do is to fulfill its long overdue obligations made to India and WTO.
    Therefore, don’t panic, just cool your nerves! Take a chill pill!

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  • Ayaz Munir
    Nov 9, 2011 - 11:15PM

    I hope that due to this MFN status given to India, India & Pakistan may also ease the problems with the Visas being given to people of both the neighboring countries to visit each others countries. Chunk of the Muslims in India have relatives in Pakistan , as well as the Urdu Speaking population of Pakistan( 8% of total Population) also has relatives in India. Many Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan cant meet their relatives in India & vice versa beacuse of the Problems with Visa issuance. Hope this new development can end these hinderances
    Pakistan Zindabad

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  • Mango Man
    Nov 9, 2011 - 11:36PM

    Question is….Is India also going to declare Pakistan the Most Favorite Nation??
    If yes then go ahead and if not then why our so called democratic government gonna so poor action?? They have solved Pakistan internal issues?? Have they provided electricity, sugar n Atta at low rates, employment to poor people, reduced corruption etc?? If not then why they’re gonna take this step. Please think positively, we have so much potential. We can do so many actions within the country to make our economy better. Why our government don’t go for European, middle east, Arabic and American markets to get opportunities to get their economy better?
    Please first think for Pakistan’s interest then for your personal interest!!

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  • zalim singh
    Nov 10, 2011 - 12:02AM

    i wont bet on it.

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  • Haris
    Nov 10, 2011 - 12:34AM

    in india the media talks for the government

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  • Rehman Khan
    Nov 10, 2011 - 12:45AM

    We should follow the principle of::REDUCING THE TRUST DEFICIT AND INCREASING THE
    TRADE DEFICIT.

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  • ali
    Nov 10, 2011 - 1:56AM

    Another blunder by the NRO govt just to please Washington.

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  • Babloo
    Nov 10, 2011 - 2:16AM

    India should reject MFN status from Pakistan and reject any contact or trade or linkages with Pakistan. Absolute, total, 100% no-contact in any form with Pakistan is in India’s best interests.

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  • Straight_Talk
    Nov 10, 2011 - 2:25AM

    I am skeptical about what the GOI is doing. Pakistan is a master of such deceptive diplomacy. I bet they will return to being what they have always been in not a very long time. On one hand Pakistan says they want to normalise relations and just yesterday they released the list of banned terror organization. JUD was missing from that list. And guess what, immediately today JUD made venomous speeches against granting India MFN status and asked the government there to link it with Kashmir. This double game of Pakistan has been repeated so many times that in India people just does not want all this. I am kind of amazed by the policy of GOI on this issue. MFN is being play about as a huge concession by Pakistan. Who wants MFN ? For whose benefit is all the fuss about MFN ? The end result of all this is the right atmosphere that can allow an attack or two without any real punitive response from India. GOI should not have stepped into this trap. If anything happens now on, the present government will not even get a chance to answer. Recommend

  • OmarSharif
    Nov 10, 2011 - 5:51AM

    @Mango Man:
    Mango- as far as I know India gave us MFN status back in 1996. We are reciprocating after many years.

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  • Terrorising and true
    Nov 10, 2011 - 8:54AM

    @Mohammad Ali Siddiqui:
    1) It is people like you who continue their indoctrination to the next gen and poison them with idiocy.
    2) ‘To give the status of Most Favoured Nation to India is a decision of Government of Pakistan and of the people of Pakistan’ and that after thinking what is in the interest of both. Do you even have an understanding of how a country runs and progresses. It is when people’s stomachs are full and economy is moving and not in talking emotional crap.
    3) Yes, The government come and goes, but the people will remain there. But do you understand that clearly??
    4) It is the army of Pakistan who do not think that India is a Most Favoured Nation of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Noon Meem
    Nov 10, 2011 - 12:06PM

    It is the right time for opening of Baltistan-Ladakh road connection, enabling the divided families to meet.

    This is important because the organic cultural ties on both sides of the divide are too thick to be corroded by history-worship and senseless dogmatism.

    Recommend

  • V K Bajaj (New Delhi)
    Nov 10, 2011 - 2:43PM

    @Terrorising and true:

    Sir, You have Truly Terrorized Mohammad Ali Siddiqui and now let me Terrorize you:

    It is true that Govt keeps on changing. But I do not agree that “people will remain here”. People also goes and new generation comes. With the new generation ideology also keep on changing.

    It is the high time that both India and Pak Govt and respective citizen must understand the need to have a close and fruitful relations rather than to depend upon USA USSR etc.

    Recommend

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