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Gilani, not Zardari, will meet Manmohan

Nirupama Subramanian

NAM meeting is scheduled for July in Egypt

ISLAMABAD: When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh goes to Sharm-al-Shaikh for the Non-Aligned Movement meeting, it will not be President Asif Ali Zardari from Pakistan who he will meet on the sidelines to take forward the process launched at Yekaterinburg, but Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani.

Earlier this week, after the meeting in Russia between Dr. Singh and Mr. Zardari, officials on both sides said the two leaders would meet again in July on the sidelines of the NAM summit, preceded by a meeting between their foreign secretaries.

Surprise

But the Foreign Office pulled a surprise on Thursday with the announcement that Mr. Gilani, and not the President, will travel to Egypt for the summit.

This may, however, not be the final word on the matter yet, as Mr. Zardari has several times taken the place of the Prime Minister on foreign visits, mostly at short notice.

It is unclear if the decision that Mr. Gilani will attend the summit has anything to do with the perceived slight to Mr. Zardari by the Indian Prime Minister at their meeting on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit.

Dr. Singh’s opening remarks to Mr. Zardari that his mandate was limited to discussing what Pakistan had done to stop terrorist attacks against India emanating from its soil did not go down well in many quarters here, although the Foreign Office has in its public statements chosen to gloss over it.

“Satisfactory”

At the weekly media briefing, spokesman Abdul Basit said the outcome of the meeting between the two leaders was “satisfactory” from Pakistan’s point of view.

“There were two tangible outcomes: that the foreign secretaries will meet, and two, that the political leadership will meet,” he said, adding that Pakistan never expected that the meeting would immediately lead to the resumption of the suspended dialogue.

“We look forward to a productive meeting between the foreign secretaries,” the spokesman said.

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