The meeting point
By being evasive, PM is turning a simple meeting with Nawaz Sharif into a fraught political question
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh appears to be tying himself in knots on the question of talking to Pakistan. In accommodating the hawks at home and yielding to pressures from the Congress party to avoid anything controversial with Pakistan in an election year, the PM may be abdicating his responsibility to lead the nation's foreign policy. Consider, for example, the PM's remarks on Saturday during a flight back from the G-20 Summit in Russia. Singh would say neither "no" nor "yes" to a pointed question on his plans to meet his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, when both leaders are in New York next month to attend the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly.
In refusing to rule out the meeting, the PM was affirming the political conviction that India must never abandon talks with its neighbours. Singh added that he has personal "respect" for Sharif, "who has said the right things about how relations between our two countries should evolve". At the same time, the PM pointed to the "harsh realities" that have to be factored into his decision on meeting Sharif in New York. These include continuing cross-border terrorism from Pakistan, Islamabad's reluctance to rein in Lashkar-e-Toiba chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, and the inability to bring the plotters of the Mumbai massacre in 2008 to book.