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Pakistan stirs speculation over Manmohan visit

india Updated: Jul 04, 2006 17:14 IST

Pakistan's emphatic announcement that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would come visiting in Islamabad to review the just-completed third round of the ongoing composite dialogue has suddenly quickened the pace of diplomatic activity between the two neighbours.

It has also raised some questions in diplomatic circles for no dates have been announced.

India is yet react to Pakistan's announcement. Dates and venues are usually announced simultaneously in both capitals after mutual agreement. This has not happened.

Despite this, Pakistan's Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam insists: "But I can tell you there will be a visit."

The feeling in the South Block is that Pakistan has made the absence of a foreign minister in India a talking and sticking point in the diplomatic discourse with the neighbour.

Since Singh is his own foreign minister, for reasons of protocol, if not for political ones, he is required to lead the dialogue from the Indian side, and in the process, upgrade it to the level of the prime ministers.

This suits the current Pakistani diplomatic stance. Aslam, however, gave no indication whether Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz would be around to talk to Singh who would, of course, meet President Pervez Musharraf.

The difference is that India does not want another Lahore or Agra, since any India-Pakistan meeting at the summit level, taking place anywhere, has the tendency to get hyped up, raising huge expectations.

"Whom do I talk to?" Aslam quoted her foreign minister Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri. A man of jovial disposition, Kasuri has let his "disappointment" be known to every Indian he has met, including former external affairs minister Yashwant Sinha, that he regrets not being able "pick up the phone and talk" to his counterpart, since there is none in New Delhi.

"We are keen for such a meeting but not without an Indian counterpart. Therefore, there is no schedule for a meeting of the two foreign ministers," The News daily quoted Aslam as saying.

The likely date, diplomatic circles here say, could be any time after July 20, when the last meeting of the third round of the dialogue is scheduled.

What they note is Pakistan's insistence on a political level summing up of a round that has produced precious little with practically no movement forward.

At one end, the scaling down of the troops presence on the Siachen Glacier did not work out and, at the other, even the relatively easier question of exchange of detained fishermen ran into legal and procedural wrangles.

Pakistan has not concealed its disappointment on these and other bilateral issues. When asked how Pakistan reviewed the three rounds and whether it was satisfied with the outcome, the spokeswoman replied: "The two foreign secretaries are going to meet and review the third round and I cannot comment or give a review before that."

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