South Asia Leaders Gather for Nepal Summit

By T.C. Malhotra | July 7, 2008 | 8:10 PM EDT

New Delhi ( - The leaders of India and Pakistan on Friday joined several other South Asia leaders at a royal banquet in Nepal, where a regional summit begins tomorrow.

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit was supposed to open on Friday, but bad weather delayed the Pakistan president's flight, prompting the participants to delay the start of the summit until Saturday.

Rising tensions between India and Pakistan are expected to dominate the gathering. But it's still unclear if the leaders of those two nations will meet on the sidelines of the summit.

"One can't be very sure whether I am meeting the Indian prime minister of not," said Pakistan President Pervez Musarraf when he arrived in Nepal.

India also has played down the prospect of a meeting. "I'm not here to conduct India-Pakistan relations," said Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh on the eve of the summit.

Singh also refused to speculate on how far the two countries were from war, saying, "This cannot be measured in steps." The countries have fought three border wars over the years, but now that both countries have nuclear weapons, the possibility of a fourth war has everyone worried.

India insists that Islamabad take credible action against terrorists operating in the Indian part of Kashmir. Overnight, Pakistan arrested more Islamic militants, as troops from both countries exchanged fire across a cease-fire line in the dispute Himalayan region of Kashmir.

An expert on Indo-Pakistan affairs said India has agreed to give more time to Pakistan to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism.

But while giving Gen. Musharraf extra time to comply with the demand for eliminating terrorism from its soil, Singh also laid down two specific actions that Pakistan could take immediately.

Singh said, "It is our expectation that a more purposeful and forthright declaration against terrorism" would come from Pakistan. "We certainly expect action by Pakistan on the list we have given of proven terrorists, criminals and narcotics traffickers," he added.

If Gen. Musharraf can address these two demands at once, it is not inconceivable that a political dialogue between the two nations could begin at Kathmandu.