NEW DELHI: Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari on Sunday met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here ahead of his ‘private’ visit to the Ajmer dargah.
After their closed door meeting, the two leaders emerged briefly to make a media statement, with Bilawal Zardari Bhutto strategically placed behind them.
Zardari reiterated the long-standing invitation to Manmohan Singh to visit Pakistan - “hoping to meet on Pakistan soil very soon”. He did not, however, give a deadline of “year-end” as the Pakistan presidential office had mentioned before he arrived. Stating that they had a “very constructive and friendly exchange of views”, Singh said he would be “very happy to visit Pakistan on a mutually convenient date”. The Prime Minister was born in Gah village which now lies in Pakistan.
“We have a number of issues and are willing to find practical, pragmatic solutions to all those issues and that’s the message President Zardari and I wish to convey,” Singh asserted.
Later Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said: “The diplomatic channels will be used to work out mutually acceptable dates and substantive preparations for that visit.” But, sources indicated that the visit can be scheduled only after some of the “big issues” - like Sir Creek, Siachen, terrorism and Kashmir - showed progress during the dialogue process.
“We expect and hope that we will make progress. Once we do that, it will be factored in... So, it will be a combination of calendar and availability of leaders and the kind of progress that we are doing (to decide on the PM’s visit),” said the senior official.
He also added that reaching an agreement on Sir Creek would certainly be “doable”. In fact, Mathai added that both leaders were satisfied at the “steady progress” in the dialogue process restarted last year after it was suspended following the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
A visa agreement to facilitate easier travel between the two countries will be signed soon.