It’s official. Putting aside months of rhetoric from Delhi and Islamabad after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (76) will have a “structured meeting” with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari (53) on Tuesday afternoon in Yekaterinburg.
The as-of-now one-off meeting will happen at the crossroads of Europe and Asia in the central Russian city of Yekaterinburg, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon told presspersons on board the PM’s special aircraft.
“It won’t be a resumption of the composite dialogue that existed between the two countries before the 26/11 Mumbai attack. It could be a new kind of dialogue,” a senior Indian official, who preferred anonymity, said.
“We are not backing down on our demands that Pakistan deal with terrorism directed at India. We expect strong, credible action from Pakistan on the issue of terrorism.” a member of the PM’s delegation said.
Pakistan has to deal with the core issue of terrorism and the PM will convey our concerns that not enough has been done to bring to book Lashkar-e-Tayyeba activists like Hafiz Saeed and Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, prime accused in the 26/11 attacks.
Given India’s preoccupation with Pakistan, Singh, on his first visit abroad since becoming the PM for a second time, is likely to make plain Delhi’s concerns on cross-border terror during the meeting.
Singh arrived on Monday night in Yekaterinburg, a city of 1.5 million people that lies east of the Ural mountains that divide Europe and Asia, to attend back-to-back meetings of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and the Brazil, Russia, India, China, or BRICs, summit on Tuesday.
The PM, who clinched a major transformation in India’s status by removing curbs on civil nuclear cooperation last year, is expected to engage proactively on the subjects of regional economic cooperation and global recession.
On India’s new foreign policy priorities, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon (59) said, “I think one is a peaceful periphery and relations with our neighbours. The second I think would be to continue the improvement in the transformation of our relations with the major powers."
“The third, and this is actually the threat that joins all the other priorities, is to work with the international community to see a rapid recovery in the world economy” Menon stated.
India, he said, would deal with the rest of the world to bring our growth rate to a level where the country could do away with mass poverty by 2020, the official said. That, he believed, would be the “touchstone” of India’s foreign policy.
This goal fits in well with India’s participation in the first-ever BRICs meeting, which is expected to ponder over new proposals on how to change the global international financial architecture and recognise the tectonic economic shifts away from the West.