Yekaterinburg, (Russia): Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, holding his first meeting with Pakistan’s leader since last year’s attacks on Mumbai, asked him to ensure militants could not operate from Pakistani territory.
“I am happy to meet you, but my mandate is to tell you that the territory of Pakistan must not be used for terrorism,” Singh told Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari at a meeting on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Summit in Russia.
His tough words suggested there would be no major breakthrough in relations between India and Pakistan. Washington is keen to see a thaw between the two countries to ease tensions across the region, including in Afghanistan.
No breakthrough: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (right) with Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari in Yekaterinburg, Russia, on Tuesday. It’s their first meeting since the Mumbai attacks. Kamal Kishore / PTI
India broke off talks with Pakistan after gunmen launched multiple attacks on Mumbai last November, killing at least 183 people. It blamed the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group.
Pakistan wants to resume a five-year-old peace process, while India has said it wants Islamabad to take further action against the Lashkar-e-Taiba first before a formal dialogue between the two nuclear-armed rivals can be resumed.
Ahead of his meeting with Zardari, Singh urged regional cooperation against terrorism and other security threats.
“The spectre of terrorism, extremist ideologies and illicit drug trafficking haunts our region. Terrorist crimes committed today are transnational in nature,” Singh said in the text of a speech prepared for the summit. “It is imperative that we genuinely cooperate with one another and on a global scale to resolutely defeat international terrorism.”
India was incensed when a Pakistani court this month ordered the release from house arrest of Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba. Islamabad says it has detained some militants, but needs more evidence from New Delhi for further action.
The US is keen to see the two countries improve relations so that Pakistan can concentrate on fighting the Taliban on its border with Afghanistan.
Indian analysts had said ahead of the meeting in Russia that they did not expect Singh to agree to reopen formal peace talks until Pakistan took further action against the Lashkar-e-Taiba.
But they said India was nonetheless likely to be willing to talk to Pakistan, provided this was focused on exchanging information on curbing terrorism.