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Peeved Zardari not to face Singh

Peeved Zardari not to face Singh

Publication: Free Press Journal
Date: June 19, 2009

In a sudden development, President Asif Ali Zardari has decided not to attend the NAM Summit in Egypt next month, apparently to avoid another meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,whose blunt public comments appear to have annoyed Pakistan.

Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani will lead the Pakistani delegation to the Summit at Sharm-el Shaikh on July 15, the Foreign Office announced, a day after Singh had told reporters that he and Zardari would be meeting on the sidelines of the Summit.

The usually soft-spoken Singh caught Zardari off guard during their meeting on the sidelines of the summit in Russia when he told him in front of journalists that Pakistan needed to control terrorism emanating from its territory.

Apparently embarrassed, the Pakistani President told Singh that they could talk af ter journalists have left the hall.

Pakistan's pro-establish ment daily, 'The News,' exten sively covered Singh's re marks in a report headlined "Singh surprises with rude public remark" but other sec tions of the media played up Foreign Minister Shah Mah mood Qureshi's comment that the meeting between Singh and Zardari was a "positive devel opment".

After the meeting between Singh and Zardari, it had been announced that the Foreign Secretaries of the two coun tries would meet to discuss ter rorism and then the two lead ers would "take stock" of thei deliberations when they meetagain in Sharm-el Shaikh.

Pakistan Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit, however, sought to play down the development. "We said the next meeting at Sharm-el Sheikh would be between the political leadership of the two countries. It was never said whether the President or the Prime Minister would represent Pakistan," he told PTI.

Diplomatic and other sources said the move was a reaction to Singh's remarks and the intention was to send out a clear message that the comments had not gone down well with the Pakistan government.

Former President Pervez Musharraf has represented Pakistan at the last few NAM summits.

Even though 'The News' ran down Singh's remarks other sections of the media played up Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi's comment that the meeting between Singh and Zardari was a "positive development".

The meeting between Singh and Zardari was the first high-level contact between the leadership of the two countries since last year's Mumbai terror attacks, which India blamed on Pakistan-based elements, including the Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Observers said the latest development could impact Pakistan's efforts to bring composite dialogue back on track.

India put the peace process on hold in the wake of the Mumbai attacks and has linked the resumption of dialogue to Pakistan acting against perpetrators of the terrorist strike.

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