PM Manmohan Singh meets Gilani

Addu (Maldives): Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today met his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani here to give a push to normalisation of bilateral relations marked by "shrinking" trust deficit.

The meeting on the sidelines of the 17th SAARC summit comes a week after Pakistan took a path-breaking decision to confer MFN status to India 16 years after it got a similar treatment from New Delhi and the return of the Indian Air Force`s helicopter which had strayed into Pak-occupied Kashmir across the LoC last month.

The two Prime Ministers met in a beach cottage in Shangrilla resort along the Indian Ocean and discussed a whole range of issues, including the need for Islamabad to take action against the 26/11 perpetrators and build on the recent Pakistani decision to grant the MFN status to India.

Before the meeting, the two prime ministers shook hands and posed for photos. When the photographers pressed for a hand shake again Gilani responded "once more" and the two leaders shook again for the shutterbox.

This was followed by a brief delegation level talks after which the two leaders met separately. The delegation members included External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon and Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai.
From the Pakistani side, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir and Interior Minister Rehman Malik were among those present.

Singh and Gilani are meeting for the second time this year after their discussions on the margins of the Indo-Pak encounter in the Cricket world cup match in Mohali and third time in 18 months after their talks on the sidelines of the previous SAARC summit in Bhutan last year.

Ahead of the Singh-Gilani parleys, Krishna met Khar at least thrice on Wednesday.

Krishna said there was "shrinking" trust deficit between the two countries though he asked Pakistan not to allow terrorism from its soil. Khar reciprocated by saying that her country`s soil would not be allowed to carry out terror attacks.

Khar also insisted that her country would not backtrack on the decision to confer MFN status to India, saying it was part of normalisation of ties between the two countries. "Relations with India are complex and complicated and we want tomorrow to lead today, rather than yesterday to define today and tomorrow," she said.