August 31, 2012 (TSR) – The long-awaited meeting between President Asif Ali Zardari and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held on the sidelines of the NAM summit in Tehran on Thursday achieved little beyond the former reiterating the desire for close bilateral relations and improved trade and the Indian leader saying little except stressing the need for Pakistan to act firmly against militants blamed for Mumbai attacks.
It was expected that Singh would make a positive announcement about his long overdue visit to Islamabad and that the two sides would set a date for the visit, but he again restricted himself to saying that he would travel to Pakistan at an ‘appropriate time’.
President Zardari said Pakistan and India must make determined efforts and maintain focus to steer their dialogue process in a productive and result-oriented manner. “We have covered a lot of ground but we still have to go a long way.”
The Pakistani president said it was important to move beyond reiteration of positions to more substantive results. He said that Pakistan was committed to pursuing the process of dialogue and engagement with India and was keenly looking forward to the visit of Singh at an early date.
Zardari said Pakistan desired friendly, cooperative and good neighborly relations with India, as it had a deep interest in promoting peace and stability in the region.
He said the South Asian region had enormous potential and the cooperation between the two countries was imperative to exploit this potential. The two leaders also noted the substantive improvement in their bilateral, economic and trade relations.
President Zardari expressed satisfaction at the completion of the second round of the dialogue process that would culminate with the foreign ministers meeting in Islamabad in September.
Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar later described the meeting between the two leaders as “good.” “There is ample proof that the political leadership of the two countries is committed to improving and normalizing ties with each other,” she told APP at the Conference Centre.
Khar said Pakistan believed that it was the right approach and the requirement of the times and emerging regional situation to have better ties with all the countries, particularly those in the region. “It is important that we are able to move past the challenges of the past and move into a new era of cooperation and being able to resolve our disputes,” she said.
Foreign Minister Khar, Interior Minister Rehman Malik, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Indian Foreign Minister SM Krishna, Indian external affairs secretary, Indian national security adviser and Pakistan Ambassador to Iran Khalid Babar were present during the second meeting of President Zardari with Singh in a year. They had last met in New Delhi during President Zardari’s daylong private visit to India in April.
On the other hand, the leadership of Pakistan and Iran reaffirmed their commitment to expeditiously completing work on several joint mega projects, including the multi-billion dollar Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, electricity transmission lines and road links.
During the meeting of President Zardari and President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad here on the sidelines of the 16th NAM Summit, the two sides discussed matters relating to further cementing bilateral relations, mutual cooperation and the regional situation.
President Zardari expressed his deepest condolences to the Iranian president over the losses that Iran suffered recently due to the earthquake. Expressing sympathy with the Iranian people, especially the bereaved families over the loss of precious lives, the president said the resilient Iranian people would overcome this adversity in keeping with its glorious traditions. He said that Pakistan was ready to provide all possible help to the Iranian brethren to overcome the effects of this disaster.
The president congratulated his counterpart on holding of a successful summit and expressed the hope that it would contribute significantly in creating better understanding of the challenges confronted by the region and the participating countries.
Discussing bilateral relations, the president noted with satisfaction the upward trajectory of the mutual relations and stressed upon creating viable linkages in the areas of trade and investment, energy and connectivity to bring the two people further closer. He said there was tremendous potential of trade between the two countries and effective steps needed to realize the set targets. He said the current volume of trade between the two countries was far below the existing potential. He said there was a need to remove tariff and non-tariff barriers and identify alternative arrangements to expand the bilateral trade.
In this regard the president said that under the barter trade agreement his country looked forward to exporting one million tons of wheat for urea from Iran.
During the meeting, the two sides also reviewed progress on the mega projects, including the Iran-Pakistan Gas pipeline, the 1000MW Taftan-Quetta power transmission line; the 100MW Gwadar power supply project; construction of Noshki-Dalbandin section of Quetta-Taftan Highway and up-gradation of the Quetta-Taftan railway track.
The leadership also discussed issues related to visa facilitation and opening of the new border posts at Mand-Pishin and Gabd-Rimdan to connect Karachi and Gwadar with Chah Bahar and Bandar Abbas through the coastal highway.
There was unanimity of views on the need to enhance cooperation in the security fields including control of trans-border crimes and movement of narcotic drugs.
The two sides also agreed in principle to operate new flights between Islamabad and Tehran; Peshawar and Mashhad; and Quetta and Gilgit to Mashhad, details of which would be mutually agreed by the relevant authorities.
President Zardari and President Ahmedinejad also agreed upon timely implementation of the decisions reached during the Trilateral Summit. Regional situation, especially that of Afghanistan and Syria, also came under discussion.
Meanwhile, President Zardari and Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon discussed the bilateral ties, cooperation in trade and energy sectors and vowed to make the forthcoming quadrilateral summit in Islamabad a success. Besides discussing the bilateral ties spanning over a decade, they agreed to further strengthen and make the relationship more meaningful. They also discussed the regional situation and the way forward to address the issues of common concern.