Islamabad and New Delhi have been finalising dates for the visit of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the hush, much before President Asif Zardari’s official invitation on Sunday, officials told The Express Tribune.
The invitation was first extended by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to his Indian counterpart in April last year, when he travelled to Mohali to watch a cricket World Cup semi-final between the two neighbours.
“That invitation is still pending,” said a Foreign Office official.
“We believe that the Indian prime minister should reciprocate the gesture by undertaking a visit to Pakistan,” added the official, who requested anonymity. “We are in touch with each other through diplomatic channels to finalise the dates.”
However, the official said India was reluctant to commit to the visit. Indian reluctance stems from the fact that it wants to see ‘meaningful progress’ on key issues, including the prosecution of suspects involved in the Mumbai attacks before Singh tours Islamabad.
However, Pakistan has rejected the Indian assertion, saying such an approach would be a setback to the gradual normalisation that has been taking place in recent years between the arch-rivals.
“Look, we have shown great flexibility in our approach. For years we linked the normalisation of trade and economic ties with resolution of the Kashmir dispute, but now we have moved beyond that phase,” said another official in Islamabad.
The official went on to add that Pakistan’s decision to grant most-favoured nation status to India, despite strong opposition by the right-wing groups, was part of its strategic shift towards normalisation with India.
“Our stance on Kashmir remains the same but we are revisiting our decade-old approach to resolve disputes with India,” he maintained.
“But if India refuses to change its stance then I am afraid all the good work the two sides have already done may go in vain,” the official cautioned.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 9th, 2012.
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