Manmohan-Sharif meeting: Pakistan confident, India non-committal

New Delhi, Sep 20 : There was no word Friday from the Indian government on a likely meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani premier Nawaz Sharif in New York next week but Pakistan exuded confidence about the meeting taking place albeit with "low expectations" on the outcome.

Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh, to a question on the possible meeting, said the prime minister's programme in New York was "still in the process of being firmed up" and declined to say whether the much-talked about meeting with Sharif would take place.

Sartaj Aziz, adviser to the Pakistan prime minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs, told CNN-IBN news channel that he has "low expectations on the outcome from the proposed meeting" between the two prime ministers.

While Pakistan has been pushing for a meeting between the prime ministers on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York next week, India has been non-committal on the meeting. While Pakistan has proposed dates and time, India has not yet responded, said informed sources.

Sujatha Singh also said there are certain "harsh realities" on the ground.

"The harsh reality on the ground is that we continue to face acts of terrorism by groups operating from Pakistan and territories under the control of Pakistan. There are also many persons engaging in hostile propaganda against India, who continue to roam freely in Pakistan."

"Despite repeated commitments from the highest level in Pakistan and very positive statements, there is very little progress in efforts to punish those responsible for the Mumbai attacks. These are the harsh realities. So let us see what happens," she said cautiously.

Aziz, who met Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting earlier this month, told the television channel that the demand from "people of India" to call off the meeting dampened their mood.

"The sixth August (incident) has created an environment, particularly in India, where lot of people are urging the government not to talk to Pakistan and not to even meet."

"So this has dampened our enthusiasm as well as our hope, and therefore our expectations from the meeting are somewhat modest," he said, according to a transcript of the talk.

Following the Aug 6 killing of five Indian soldiers in Poonch in Jammu and Kashmir on the Line of Control (LoC) by Pakistani soldiers, the BJP demanded that India call off talks with Pakistan.

Aziz told the channel that talks must go on. "We cannot allow extremists to derail the process."

He added that talks can be resumed after a new government is formed in India next year after the elections, but they cannot be called off.

--IANS (Posted on 21-09-2013)

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