With over 100 heads of state in attendance, the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit in Egypt this week is supposed to be a big talking shop on the economic crisis, terrorism and other concerns.
But, with all eyes on the all-important meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani on July 16, the big story at the Red Sea resort of Shram el Sheikh may still be the sub-continent.
Singh has set the tone of the talks with his remark that India is “willing to walk more than half the distance” to normalise ties, if Pakistan acts to stop terrorist attacks on India.
On the other hand, Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit on Sunday said Islamabad would approach the parleys “with an open mind and a constructive and positive attitude”.
Pakistan Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir and his Indian counterpart Shivshankar Menon would soon meet to finalize the agenda for the two leaders’ meeting on the sidelines of the NAM summit.
Basically, Menon would ask what Islamabad has done to bring to book the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attacks and dismantling terror infrastructure there.
Islamambad would hope that this meeting is a repeat of NAM summit in Havana, 2006, when former president of Pakistan Pervez Musharraf had managed to get Singh’s nod for talks.
Singh would certainly wish to avoid a repeat of what happened in Yekaterinburg, Russia. Singh had then bluntly told Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, in the presence of the media, that Pakistan must end terror directed against India. (Singh later said that he was not aware that the media was present.)
The Prime Minister, however, would first fly to France — after leaving New Delhi on Monday— where he is the Chief Guest of Honour at France’s National Day on July 14, becoming the first Indian leader to have such an honour.
The proudest moment for him would come when a contingent of 400 Indian soldiers marches down the Champs Elysees leading the parade.