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Manmohan Singh's Pakistan trip being worked out: Nirupama Rao

Wednesday April 06, 2011 09:49:44 PM, IANS

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New Delhi: Details of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Pakistan are being worked out, though no date has been set, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said Wednesday.

"Our prime minister has been invited by (Pakistani) Prime Minister (Yousuf Raza) Gilani to visit Pakistan. Obviously, a visit of this nature has to be very carefully prepared. We will have to do a lot of homework," she said.

The meeting between the leaders at Mohali in Punjab March 30 on the sidelines of the cricket World Cup semifinal between the two countries, "has given a new direction" to the bilateral relationship, Rao said in an interview to Karan Thapar on CNBC TV 18's "India Tonight" programme, telecast Wednesday.

"I think the fact that our two prime ministers have met at Mohali generated a very positive impact. And I think every such meeting not just builds atmosphere but it also creates a sense of direction, a sense of positive orientation," she said.

Manmohan Singh had invited Gilani to Mohali after India and Pakistan advanced to the World Cup semifinal.

Asked about reports that Manmohan Singh's invitation was a personal decision, she said: "The decision was obviously the prime minister's. And we in MEA (ministry of external affairs), since we in a sense are practitioners of the policy that the government sets down in this regard, are obviously part of this process."

She said that the government favoured a "graduated approach, which included more people-to-people contact".

The foreign secretary described the meeting between the two home secretaries in New Delhi March 28-29 as pathbreaking.

Rao also said that the government had faith in the Pakistani government led by Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari and believed that it had the support of the army.

"What we sought to do at Mohali and what the two prime ministers...through their meeting were able to convey was that at the leadership level, there is a sense of commitment to looking at the entire process of India-Pakistan relations, stressing the need for a sustained, serious and comprehensive dialogue.

"The goal of this dialogue is normalisation of relations, something that has eluded us for the last 60 years," Rao said.

She said that India was open to renewing cricketing contacts with Pakistan.

Regarding the probe into the November 2008 Mumbai terror attack by Pakistani militants which killed 166 civilians from India and abroad, Rao expressed hope that India would get voice samples of the accused.

Rao said the "wounds of 26/11 have not healed as yet".

"I think we would do wrong to the people who lost their lives and the families who continue to grieve as a result of what happened so tragically in Mumbai, if we were to say that 26/11 is behind us," she said.

"There is an ongoing trial in Pakistan, there are questions still to be answered, there is evidence to be scrutinised, there is need for agencies in both countries to cooperate better in this regard.

"I think there is a sentiment in this country in India and there is grief still which has not died. Let me put it this way, our grief cannot die when it comes to 26/11," she said.



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