SNEHESH ALEX PHILIP
Addu (Maldives), Nov 9: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani will hold talks here tomorrow with India saying the trust deficit with its neighbour was "shrinking" and that there was a very positive atmosphere.
The two leaders will meet in the morning before the inauguration of the summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in the Addu atoll islands.
On the eve of the Singh-Gilani parleys, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna struck a positive note, saying he was very optimistic about the forward movement during the talks as the "trust level has gone up between the two countries".
Krishna, who will also be part of the bilateral, told reporters that the "trust deficit with Pakistan is shrinking" and there was "a very positive atmosphere".
He also said that it was "necessary for Pakistan to work out a joint strategy with India in order to fight terror". When asked specifically about the existence of terror training camps in Pakistan, the minister said Pakistan has to take action against them.
While the leaders of the eight SAARC nations will hold summit talks here, all eyes are on the Singh-Gilani meeting that comes against the backdrop of positive developments, including Pakistan's decision to grant the Most Favoured Nation(MFN) trade status to India and the quick release of an Indian helicopter that had strayed into Pakistani territory.
The MFN issue is also likely to come up during the talks between the two premiers and a clarity on the issue may emerge after some sort of flip-flop on the part of Islamabad in explaining the decision.
The two Prime Ministers are also expected to review progress in bilateral ties.
They last met in March when Gilani accepted Singh's invitation to watch the India-Pakistan cricket World Cup semi-final in Mohali.
They last held formal talks at the 2010 SAARC summit in Bhutan.
The Foreign Secretaries of the two countries who are already in Maldives met yesterday to discuss bilateral issues and matters relating to the prime ministerial meeting.
Ranjan Mathai and Salman Bashir expressed satisfaction on the engagement process and agreed that "stable, normal and predictable" ties were in their interest as well as the region's.
Meanwhile Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived in Maldives island on Wednesday to attend the eight-nation SAARC summit, the first time it is being held south of the equator.
Manmohan Singh was accorded a warm ceremonial welcome at Gan Island Airport before he headed in a speedboat to Addu Atoll.
He was received by Maldives President Mohammed Nasheed.(PTI)