No discussion on Kashmir with Zardari: Manmohan

By Manish Chand, IANS

On Board Air India One : With India putting Pakistan on the defensive over cross-border terrorism, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Wednesday said President Asif Ali Zardari did not raise the Kashmir issue during his discussions with him in Russia.

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“No discussion on Kashmir took place. He did not raise it nor did I raise it,” Manmohan Singh told journalists on his return home a day after his talks with Zardari in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg.

The 40-minute talks focused on terrorism that has strained ties between India and Pakistan and brought their compsite dialogue to a halt after the 26/11 Mumbai carnage.

“He did mention to me the difficulties that Pakistan is facing in containing terrorism and asked us to bear with him, give him some more time,” Manmohan Singh said.

“But there was no mention of Kashmir at any time in our discussions,” the prime minister said.

He underlined that New Delhi will review Islamabad’s action against anti-India terror outfits before taking a decision on resuming compsite dialogue when the two leaders meet again in Egypt mid-July.

With Pakistan keen on resuming dialogue with India, it would appear Zardari chose not to rake up the Kashmir issue at a time when New Delhi is not sure about resuming formal discussions with Islamabad, said reliable sources.

The absence of Kashmir in discussions between the two leaders was surprising as Islamabad considers it a core issue that must be resolved for better relations between the two countries.

New Delhi, however, considers cross-border terrorism as the primary issue that Islamabad must address if it wants to resume dialogue to India – a position that was forcefully articulated by Manmohan Singh during his talks with Zardari.

Zardari’s point was that he is fighting a grim battle and there are difficulties in fighting on all fronts, Manmohan Singh recalled.

“And he said ‘while I am absolutely sincere in controlling terrorism from whatever source it emanates and at whichever country it is directed, you must bear with me’,” Manmohan Singh said.