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Manmohan set to visit Pakistan

Four years after an Indian head of Govt visited Pakistan, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is set to travel to Islamabad, reports Amit Baruah.
Hindustan Times | By Amit Baruah, New Delhi
UPDATED ON APR 05, 2008 04:21 AM IST

Four years after an Indian head of government visited Pakistan, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is set to travel to Islamabad, South Block officials have told the Hindustan Times.

No dates have been fixed, but the visit could take place in the next couple of months, the officials said. Singh, who travelled to China in February and will visit Bhutan in May, has a long-pending invitation to visit Pakistan.

All through 2007, the unsettled political situation in Pakistan had prevented the Prime Minister from visiting Islamabad. Now, with an elected Prime Minister in place, the hurdles to visiting Pakistan have been removed.

In first contact with the Gilani government, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon will soon be in Pakistan for a review of the fourth round of talks under the composite dialogue framework.

In their telephone conversation on Wednesday night, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and the new Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi agreed that meetings under the composite dialogue framework would “resume at an early date”. Mukherjee, too, will be visiting Pakistan.

With the prospect of a prime ministerial visit to Pakistan looming large, expectations from such a trip are, obviously, high. At the same time, there is appreciation that political equations in Pakistan are still to be settled and the UPA government is months away from a general election.

An agreement on settling the Sir Creek boundary could become possible given that India and Pakistan have concluded negotiations on the issue, but an accord on withdrawing troops from the Siachen glacier still is some distance away.

Singh had been invited to visit Pakistan back in April 2005 by President Pervez Musharraf during his trip to New Delhi. “The invitation was accepted in principle. Mutually agreed dates would be worked out through diplomatic channels,” a joint statement issued at the time said.

In January 2004, Prime Minister AB Vajpayee visited Pakistan for the SAARC summit, prior to which he paid a much-celebrated visit to Lahore in February 1999.

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