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Indian, Pakistani Leaders Promise 'New Chapter' in Relations

  • Kurt Achin

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, right, and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gesture after their meeting on the sidelines of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in Addu, Maldives, November 10, 2011.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, right, and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gesture after their meeting on the sidelines of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in Addu, Maldives, November 10, 2011.

The Indian and Pakistani prime ministers have promised a "new chapter" in their relations. They say both sides expect constructive gains in the near future on issues of trade and terrorism.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart, Yousuf Raza Gilani, projected warmth as they smiled and shook hands for the cameras Wednesday in the Maldives - host of this year's summit of SAARC, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.

After meeting on the sidelines of the summit, Singh said India's destiny is inextricably linked to Pakistan. He says the two countries are ready to turn away from decades of rivalry.

“We have wasted lot of time in the past in acrimonious debates," he said. "The time has come to write a new chapter in the history of our relationship.”

Gilani said contentious issues including terrorism, the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir and access to shared water were openly discussed during the hour-long meeting. A wide range of lower ministers held meetings of their own. Gilani described a positive atmosphere for future India-Pakistan interaction.

“I think the next round of the talks would be more constructive, more positive and once again, I thank the prime minister for supporting Pakistan in the Security Council and also for the access to EU market,” said Gilani.

India supported Pakistan's bid in the United Nations to become a non-permanent member of the Security Council. Pakistan recently vowed to confer most favored nation trading status on India, allowing Indian manufacturers expanded access to Pakistani markets. Both sides are working on implementing business visas to promote commercial travel over their highly fortified border.

India suspended dialogue with Pakistan for nearly two years after gunmen killed 166 people in India's financial capital, Mumbai, in November 2008. India views the attack as one of many incidents of terrorism backed by Pakistan's intelligence agency. India says Pakistan has not done enough to bring individuals suspected of involvement in planning the attack to justice.

No date has been set for future summit talks. The two countries' foreign ministers are expected to meet in Islamabad sometime next year.

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