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Time not right for PM to visit Pakistan, feels govt

Two invitations in less than six months for Manmohan Singh to visit Pakistan, but senior leaders in the Congress and government are of the view that the time is just not ripe for a prime ministerial visit. Saubhadra Chatterji & Jayanth Jacob report. Major issues between India and Pakistan
By Saubhadra Chatterji and Jayanth Jacob | Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUL 31, 2011 02:21 AM IST

Two invitations in less than six months for Manmohan Singh to visit Pakistan, but senior leaders in the Congress and government are of the view that the time is just not ripe for a prime ministerial visit.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani extended an invitation at Mohali in March, and the second one on his behalf was made by foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar on Wednesday.

But the Congress feels there has to be a substantial outcome - a breakthrough in one the contentious issues - and progress on the terrorism front to mould public opinion in favour of a prime ministerial visit. And chances of both are slim for the time being.

The possibility of a summit-level meeting also came up during the meeting of the cabinet committee on security that dwelt at length on the India-Pakistan agenda last Tuesday.

A resolution on Sir Sreek or Siachen or a forward-looking approach to solving the Kashmir issue is what a PM's visit must entail, and the ground is not yet ready for this, said one leader.

"The party, however, understands the PM is passionate about resolving issues with Pakistan and supports his efforts" a top Congress leader told HT.

Singh feels India and Pakistan amicably resolving their differences is vital to his vision of a prosperous, integrated South Asia.

His predecessor AB Vajpayee visited Pakistan twice in six years. It was also pointed out that Indira Gandhi and Narasimha Rao never visited Pakistan.

"Mao Zedong made only one trip outside China (to Russia)", said a cabinet minister.

There are other issues at stake. Former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf being thrown out of power and the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack have blighted chances of having a substantial agenda for a prime ministerial visit.

"The best chance for that was in 2005-06. The Mumbai attack brought us many years back," said a senior official.

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