Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf are set to meet on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly session, when both travel to New York. Singh, who skipped the UNGA last year, confirmed he would be in New York in September.
One full year would have passed without an encounter between Musharraf and Singh — they last met in Havana on September 16, 2006 — when they confabulate in New York later this year.
In Havana, the vital anti-terror mechanism (ATM) to “identify and implement counter-terrorism initiatives and investigations” had taken shape, with the two leaders also calling for an early solution to the Siachen issue.
But, according to senior officials in the government, the anti-terror mechanism is yet to take off. There is reluctance to even schedule the next meeting of officials involved in the ATM, although other meetings in the composite dialogue process are regularly taking place.
The Prime Minister has repeatedly been invited to visit Pakistan but, official sources stated, it was unlikely that Singh would travel to Islamabad this year.
An expected breakthrough on demilitarising the Siachen glacier has not happened. It was widely expected that Singh would keep his date with Islamabad in case the two countries were able to agree on the parameters of a deal on the Siachen glacier.
Interestingly, the Prime Minister’s recent comments, that he did not want to complicate matters for Musharraf by going to Pakistan at a time when the General is battling a serious domestic crisis, has gone down well in Islamabad. A Pakistani diplomat said that Singh’s remarks were “welcome” and reflected the Prime Minister’s understanding of the current situation in the country. The diplomat pointed out that India and Pakistan remained engaged on the bilateral track — with the two sides continuing their eight-point composite dialogue process.
Satish Chandra, a former deputy national security adviser, believes the issue of counter-terrorism must take centrestage in any meeting between the Prime Minister and the General. “The infrastructure of terrorism has not been wound up in Pakistan. The export of terror to India continues,” Chandra, India's former High Commissioner to Pakistan, said.
The ATM should have met in June. At its first meeting in March, both delegations — also comprising intelligence officials — had decided to meet on a quarterly basis to make the mechanism effective and responsive.
On Siachen, Chandra said, “If you look at the agenda, forward movement is possible only if India makes concessions. The Pakistanis are not prepared to map out current positions (on the glacier).”
As part of the composite dialogue, the Indian and Pakistani home secretaries will meet next week to discuss terrorism and drug trafficking.