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Havana: PM-Musharraf meet raises hopes for dialogue resumption

Source: PTI
Last updated on: September 16, 2006 21:42 IST
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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf met in Havana on Saturday raising hopes for the resumption of the bilateral dialogue process stalled in the wake of the July 11 blasts in Mumbai.

The two leaders met on the sidelines of the 14th Non-Aligned Movement Summit, a day after Musharraf said a "historic opportunity" existed for the two sides to "close the chapter of tensions" and that Islamabad was determined to pursue the peace process to settle all outstanding issues, including Kashmir.

The two leaders shook hands before going in for talks at the Protocol House near the Convention Centre where the NAM Summit is being held.

Dr Singh was assisted by Minister of State for External Affairs Anand Sharma and National Security Adviser M K Narayanan, while Musharraf was aided by Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri.

The prime minister is understood to have raised India's concerns over continuing cross-border terrorism and its adverse impact on bilateral relations.  

This was the first meeting of the two leaders in almost a year. Dr Singh had on Friday said, "All issues relating to the control of terrorism will figure in our discussions".

Both he and Musharraf would have "limited time", Dr Singh said adding, he could not "promise that I am going to discuss each and every problem around".

Asked specifically if a joint statement is ruled out, he shot back, "Nothing is ruled out, nothing is ruled in either."

Musharraf, in his address to the summit of the 118-nation grouping on Friday night, said, "A historic opportunity exists that must be seized by the leadership of the two countries to bring to a close the chapter of tensions and conflict in our region."

He said he expected "substantive and meaningful" discussions with the Indian leader and voiced hope that it will carry the peace process forward.  

Musharraf said it was "of paramount importance" to devote all energies to address the major challenges of "our region by ensuring poverty alleviation, universal education, better health and higher standards of living for our people".

The three years of the peace process between India and Pakistan, he said, have led to confidence building and an improved environment in bilateral relations.

New Delhi has said the foreign secretary-level talks could resume depending on the outcome of the meeting between Dr Singh and Musharraf.

The foreign secretary-level talks, proposed to be held in July, were put off indefinitely by India after the Mumbai blasts as investigations indicated the involvement of Pakistan-based terror groups in the attacks that killed nearly 200.

Dr Singh and Musharraf have met thrice in the last two years -- twice in New York and once in New Delhi.

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