India-Pakistan cloud hangs over South Asia summit

Chandi Dharmaratne

THIMPU, April 26, 2010 (AFP) – A familiar game of “will they-won’t they” centred on a possible meeting between the leaders of India and Pakistan looks set to overshadow a summit of South Asian nations in Bhutan this week.

The summit is supposed to culminate in a joint declaration entitled “Towards a Green and Happy South Asia”, but with the region’s bitterest rivals barely on speaking terms, there is unlikely to be much cheer to spread around.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani will both be attending the two-day gathering of the eight-nation South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), which begins Wednesday.

India broke off all dialogue with Pakistan after the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which New Delhi blamed on Pakistan-based militants.

A highly tentative resumption occurred in February when their foreign secretaries met in the Indian capital, but talks ended with India insisting that full-fledged dialogue would require further steps by Pakistan to bring those responsible for the Mumbai carnage to justice.

Both countries have been coy about the possibility of an official meeting on the sidelines of the SAARC summit.

In a statement on Fri