SAJAforum: On the Sidelines of the UN General Assembly

Asif Ali Zardari, in a hugging mood with Manmohan SinghYesterday, Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari and India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met on the sidelines of the 63rd UN General Assembly session in New York:

[The leaders] agreed to kickstart an embattled peace dialogue between the two nuclear-armed rivals, with new talks to be scheduled by year’s end….

Singh and Zardari also decided to launch trading between the divided zones of the disputed Kashmir region from October 21….

The leaders agreed that a special meeting of a joint anti-terror mechanism be held next month to address "mutual concerns," including the bombing of the embassy, the statement said….

Singh and Zardari appeared satisfied as they emerged from the meeting.

In brief remarks, Singh praised Zardari’s vision for a progressive South Asia, saying they decided that issues be resolved through "peaceful" means.

Zardari called Singh the "architect of modern India," saying, "I hope to learn from him."

The meeting helped eased tensions, officials from both sides said.

"The leaders met for well over an hour, spent most of their time without aides and had a comprehensive discussion of the entire realm of issues in our relationship," Indian Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon told reporters….

According to the statement, crossborder trade will commence on the road between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad, capitals respectively of Indian and Pakistani zones of Kashmir, as well as the road from Poonch, in southern Indian Kashmir, to Rawalakot in Pakistani Kashmir. [link]

The text of their joint statement is available here.

The Singh-Zardari meeting, however, was overshadowed in the U.S. media by coverage of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin‘s courtesy calls with visiting world leaders during her own trip to New York. South Asian leaders featured prominently in Palin’s schedule. While media access to Palin’s meetings was strictly limited,
journalists were able to get some access to Palin’s initial exchanges of pleasantries with the visiting heads of state.

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