Krishna meets Zardari, Ashraf; raises terror, Sarabjit issue

Krishna meets Zardari, Ashraf; raises terror, Sarabjit issue

7 September 2012
The Daily Excelsior


Islamabad: External Affairs Minister S M Krishna today had a meeting with President Asif Zardari during which he discussed various regional and international issues, including the issue of terror, and also pleaded the case of Sarabjit Singh, who is languishing in a Pakistan jail facing death row. Official sources said Mr Krishna urged Mr Zardari to consider the mercy plea of the Indian prisoner, and Mr Zardari assured him that the case would be considered and instructed his officials to take note of it. Meanwhile, Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters here that Consular access to Sarabjit has been given and Indian authorities had met the Indian prisoner for the first time. Mr Krishna also called on Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and the two discussed various issues, including terror. Besides, Mr Krishna met leaders of major political parties like PML(Q), MQM and ANP and their talks focussed on building better relations between the two countries. India also raised the issue of terror during the meeting of Foreign Secretaries. At this meeting, the two side discussed the inputs of the various sub-commissions of the India Pakistan Joint Commission which were meeting for the first time after 2006. The recommendation of the joint working group on cross LoC Confidence Building Measures like trade and traffic facilities also came up for discussion. An agreement for implementing the facilities might happen at the Foreign Ministers’ meeting tomorrow. Earlier in the day, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said that Pakistan had given India special consular access to Sarabjit, who is lodged in a Lahore jail, following his complaints of ill treatment. The special consular access was given day before yesterday, he said, adding that Sarabjit would be treated properly. In May this year, Sarabjit sent a fresh clemency appeal to President Zardari, a fifth one seeking a pardon. On the issue of pardon for the Indian national, Malik said the matter would be decided according to the law. During the meeting between Zardari and Krishna, the two leaders also discussed other bilateral issues and the progress made so far, the sources said. Pakistan today extended a fresh invitation to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to visit the country. The invitation was reiterated during the meetings of visiting External Affairs Minister SM Krishna with President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, sources said. 'Pakistan has extended invitation to him with great hope and I am sure the Prime Minister would consider it,' Malik said. Praising the personality of Dr Singh, Mr Malik said,' The Prime Minister was a very amiable and soft spoken person and it was always very pleasant and comforting when he talks.' In fact, Dr Singh had his ancestral home not very far away from here-Gah village in Potohar region of the Punjab province. The invitation to visit Pakistan was first extended when President Zardari came to New Delhi in this April on a private visit. He had, while going to Ajmer to visit the shrine of sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, stopped for a few hours in New Delhi and had lunch with Dr Singh. Earlier, Krishna today called on Pakistan Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf who said that the country was looking forward to a visit by his counterpart Manmohan Singh. Krishna and Pervez talked about ways to carry forward Indo-Pak relations, sources privy to the meeting said. Prime Minister conveyed that Pakistan was looking forward to a visit by the Indian Prime Minister, sources said. Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar was also present during over 20 minute meeting. Meanwhile, leaders from Pakistan’s three main political parties called on Krishna, who arrived here today, and discussed issues ranging from the resumed dialogue process and trade. An MQM delegation’ led by Dr Farooq Sattar’ called on Krishna. The delegation included Waseem Akhtar’ Nasreen Jalil and Tahir Mashhedi. Sattar emphasised on the need for opening of consulates in Karachi and Mumbai. He also called for making the visa procedure easier. An ANP delegation’ led by Senator Muhammad Adeel also called on Krishna. Adeel said ANP believes that war offers no solution to any problem. He emphasised the need for resolution of all outstanding issues between the two countries through dialogue. A PML (Q) delegation headed by Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed also called on Krishna. He expressed the hope that Prime Minister Singh would visit Pakistan soon. While Prime Minister has accepted Pakistan’s invitation, he has said that a 'proper atmosphere' has to be created and a 'crucial test' for Islamabad is to bring to book the perpetrators of the heinous Mumbai attacks. India and Pakistan will sign a new liberalised visa agreement here tomorrow to boost people to people contacts while External Affairs Minister S M Krishna will hold crucial talks with his counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar, who today said that terrorism was ‘mantra of the past’. 'Yes. It will be signed,' Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik said, and added that the much-awaited pact would be signed between him and Krishna. An MoU in the field of culture is also scheduled to be signed tomorrow when the two Foreign Ministers meet. Ahead of the Krishna-Khar meeting, Foreign Secretary-level talks were held here today during which the two sides discussed all aspects of the resumed dialogue, apart from reviewing the entire expanse of the discussions held so far. 'Talks were positive and very good. We had an overview of issues before Foreign Minister-level talks,' Pakistan Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani told reporters. The two sides acknowledged that progress has been made in bilateral ties but agreed that 'much more needs to be done'. The talks between Jilani and his Indian counterpart Ranjan Mathai was a preparatory meeting to finalise the agenda for the parleys between Krishna and Khar. In an interview to reporters today Khar said that terrorism was ‘the mantra of the past, and not the mantra of future’. Krishna and Khar will hold bilateral talks tomorrow and co-chair the joint commission meeting that was revived after 16 years in 2005. This would be the first JCM since then. The two leaders will also come up with a joint statement after the talks. In his arrival statement here, Krishna said India desired to see a 'stable and prosperous' Pakistan living in peace with itself and the world. He said the leadership of India and Pakistan has mandated the building of trust and confidence between the two nations. 'We are committed to finding solutions of all issues that have beset our relationship through peaceful bilateral dialogue,' he said. Krishna stressed 'We look to the future where our two countries are able to live together in an atmosphere of friendliness and all-round cooperation free from terror and violence'. The Foreign Secretaries also reviewed the outcome of the working group of the Joint Commission, held yesterday, and will now report to their Ministers, Akbaruddin said. In today's meeting, the Indian delegation, led by Mathai, included Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan Sharat Sabharwal, Joint Secretary (Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan) in the Ministry of External Affairs, Yash Sinha, and other senior officials. Officials also talked about the cross LoC CBMs as discussed by a joint working group earlier in July which included multiple entry visas, group tourism, and establishing banking institutions, and hoped it will be discussed by the two sides tomorrow. On the third round of resumed dialogue, officials said by second half of 2013 the two sides should have similar rounds of discussion, adding that Commerce Secretaries' meeting is going to be held by this month end. The Pakistani delegation was led by Jilani and consisted of High Commissioner to India Salman Bashir, Director General (South Asia) at the Pakistan Foreign Office Zehra Akbari and others. Both Ministers will also co-chair the Joint Commission Meeting tomorrow, which was revived in 2005 after a gap of 16 years. This is Krishna's second visit to Pakistan in over two years. Indian officials say that terrorism will form the core of New Delhi's discussions, particularly the slow pace of the Mumbai attack case trial. Other issues likely to figure in the talks include those concerning prisoners as well as trade and border issues.