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Amid warming ties, PM to meet Gilani in Maldives

delhi Updated: Nov 10, 2011 09:42 IST
Jayanth Jacob
Jayanth Jacob
Hindustan Times
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In the wake of "shrinking" trust deficit on account of improving economic relations, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is set to take another plunge in normalising ties with Pakistan on Thursday.

Right noises and atmosphere were there in abundance ahead of Singh's meeting with Pakistan prime minister Yusuf Raza Gilani on the sidelines of the annual summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAAARC).

As India hopes to consolidate recent gains for its periphery of peace policy, external affairs minister SM Krishna talked on Wednesday about "shrinking" trust deficit and his Pakistan counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar reciprocated his sentiments. To top it up, Gilani in Lahore said, "Everything is going in the right direction" in the India-Pakistan dialogue process.

Special focus will be on fostering trade and people-to-people contact, especially through Wagah Border.

India sees Pakistan's move to give it the most favoured nation (MFN) status as a substantial step. This will help the bilateral trade to go up many times from $2.7 billion.

Significantly, both sides have carefully avoided incidences that have in the past derailed the fragile peace process.

Krishna and Khar met thrice on Wednesday. Khar reciprocated Krishna's observations on the peace process.

"We look at this environment to have been improved considerably and the trust deficit that typically exists between the two countries and has existed... to have been reduced ...," she said adding the talks will improve the positive development.

It was on the sidelines of the last summit in Thimbu that Singh and Gilani had directed their officials to address the trust deficit. India had called off the peace process with Pakistan after the terrorist attack in Mumbai in 2008.

At the same time, forward movement on Mumbai attack case and Pakistan addressing the issue of terrorism are the domestic imperatives for Manmohan Singh to take the peace process forward.

India has insisted on an assurance from Gliani on Pakistan taking all "steps' on bringing the Mumbai attackers to justice. Sources said Pakistan seemed willing to do so.

Krishna later said, "Terrorism continues to be the focal point of India's dialogue process with Pakistan. So when we discuss bilateral issues, we certainly factor terror and its various ramifications." Pakistan foreign secretary Salman Bashir said such meetings added to the "feel good factor".