The 45 mins at Sharm el-Sheikh that made history
Sharm el-Sheikh: Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani made his way up to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Presidential Suite 2129 at Shram el- Sheikh’s Hotel Martim Jolie Ville Golf Resort anxiously looking at his watch.delhi Updated: Jul 18, 2009 23:49 IST
Sharm el-Sheikh: Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani made his way up to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Presidential Suite 2129 at Shram el- Sheikh’s Hotel Martim Jolie Ville Golf Resort anxiously looking at his watch.
He knew he was running behind schedule. His securitymen were on edge as they parted a crowd of Indian, Pakistani and Western TV reporters.
An aide had cautioned him that he shouldn’t expect the meeting to go beyond an hour from 10.30am. And, it was not before 11am that Gilani could settle down and face Singh.
But once the shutterbugs left, time didn’t seem to matter. For the next three hours, both Prime Ministers were out to make history.
As insiders said, “they virtually forgot their next string of appointments.” Nepal PM Madhav Kumar Nepal was told at the last minute that Singh couldn’t meet him.
An hour must have gone by — Indian and Pakistani delegations were going in circles, reading their prepared texts and notes in the PMs’ presence.
The same things cropped up. Composite dialogue, dossier on men behind 26/11 and terrorist camps — as they had during parleys between Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and his Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir.
It was then that the two turned to each other, “why can’t we talk it out?” Their delegations left the suite.
For the next 45 minutes, Singh and Gilani minced no words. As an official put it, they spoke their mind — not in diplomatic language but the way two business leaders would: clear and straight.
Singh called in his aides, so did Gilani. Singh asked them to record what the two had to say. Singh added a paragraph or two. So did Gilani. Their diplomats looked bewildered.
After half-an-hour, somebody brought a print out. Singh and Gilani read it. Singh said he would go with it, Gilani couldn’t be happier. Thus was born the joint statement of Indian and Pakistan Prime Ministers!
Thirty minutes later, Dr Harish Khare, the PM’s media adviser, emerged, carrying a few copies that Pakistani journalists were equally eager to grab but were told they would have to get from their government. Someone even tried to snatch it from Khare. In a moment’s time, Indian TV reporters were on their mobiles with “Breaking News”.
But Singh soon realised the statement’s first reading back home would be anything but complimentary. He delayed his press conference so he could himself be the spin doctor.
So, on the flight back home, no Indian official wanted to speak to the media — when the PM had spoken.