Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani will not attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting later this month, effectively ruling out the possibility of talks with his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of the summit. Pakistan will be represented by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi at the meeting to be held at Port of Spain in Trinidad and Tobago during November 27-29, official sources told PTI.
It had earlier been reported that Gilani would attend the meeting and the premier himself recently said there was a possibility he would meet Singh on the sidelines of the gathering. There was no official word on the reasons for Gilani's decision not to attend the meeting though sources said that the lack of progress in reviving the stalled composite dialogue with India had been a key factor.
Pakistan's Foreign Office believes India has adopted a strong position on resuming the composite dialogue and is unwilling to back down from it, the sources said. They added that there had also been no response to Pakistan's proposed roadmap for reviving the peace process by the end of the year. This proposal was shared by Foreign Minister Qureshi with his Indian counterpart S M Krishna during their talks on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September.
India put the composite dialogue on hold in the wake of the Mumbai attacks last year and has linked the resumption of talks to Pakistan taking action against terror groups based on its territory. In his latest offer of talks last month, Prime Minister Singh said India is ready to discuss all issues but made it clear that a "productive dialogue" could be held onlyif terrorism is brought under control by Pakistan.
New Delhi is not convinced that Islamabad has done enough to bring Pakistan-based elements linked to the Mumbai attacks, including Jamaat-ud-Dawah chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed. Though Pakistani authorities arrested seven Lashkar-e-Tayiba operatives for alleged involvement in the attacks, their trial in an anti-terrorism court has been mired in controversy and confusion.
Pakistan's Foreign Office had been banking on US pressure to bring India back to the negotiating table but sources said there had been a "re-think" on the issue at the highest levels of the government as even US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had not sent out a clear message in this regard during her recent visit to Islamabad.
Clinton was asked at several of her public engagements about the role the US could play in the resumption of the India-Pakistan dialogue but she steadfastly maintained that the US could only encourage talks between the two sides and not dictate solutions.