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SAARC Summit
PM to meet Gilani in Maldives 
Foreign Secretary sees positive indicators from Pak in past few weeks
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 6
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will leave on November 9 for the SAARC Summit in the Maldives on the sidelines of which he will have bilateral meetings with his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani and other South Asian leaders.

Ahead of the meeting between the PMs of India and Pakistan, Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai today observed that there have been positive indicators of a forward movement with Pakistan in the past few weeks. In this connection, he drew attention towards Islamabad’s prompt action in releasing an Indian helicopter which strayed into Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) recently and its reported decision to grant the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India.

Emphasising that Manmohan Singh was committed to a stable and normal relationship with Pakistan, he said minor trends should not derail the overall trend towards a better relationship between the two countries.In response to a question, Mathai said all issues in bilateral relations would come up when the two PMs meet next week.

The schedule of Singh’s meetings was being drawn up. However, sources indicated that Singh’s meeting with Gilani would take place next Friday.

On the confusing signals being given by Pakistan on according the MFN status to India, the Indian foreign secretary read out the statement issued by Pakistan Commerce Ministry after the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday which said “it has the mandate to take forward the process of normalisation of trade relations between India and Pakistan, which would culminate in the observance of the MFN principle in its true spirit.’’ New Delhi, he said, believed that it would not take long to implement the provisions of the MFN status by both countries.

Talking about the SAARC Summit to be held on November 10-11, he said four important agreements were expected to be finalised by the eight SAARC leaders from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan and the Maldives. Two of these accords were on regional standards, one on a rapid response mechanism to tackle natural disasters and the fourth one on a SAARC seed bank in the field of agriculture. The theme of the summit is ‘Building Bridges’.

SAARC Summit will be preceded by a meeting of the SAARC Standing Committee on foreign secretaries on November 7-8. The next day, the SAARC Council of Ministers will finalise agenda of the summit. External Affairs Minister S M Krishna will represent India at this meeting.

Asked if there was any proposal to expand SAARC membership, Mathai said the eight-nation grouping already has nine observers and there was no proposal being entertained by it to increase the membership.

After conclusion of summit on November 11, the PM will be on a bilateral visit to the Maldives to give a new momentum to bilateral ties. A number of agreements are expected to be inked between two countries. The PM will also address the ‘Majlis’ (Parliament) of the Maldives.





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