NEW DELHI - Amid suspense over whether he will meet Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif later this month, Indian Premier Manmohan Singh said on Saturday that he will have to factor in ‘certain harsh realities’ like India being affected by terror, before arriving at a ‘final decision’ on meeting his Pakistani counterpart in New York.

Singh asserted that he would be happy to meet Nawaz Sharif under ‘normal conditions’ as he had respect for the Pakistani Premier who had said the right things about how India-Pakistan relations should evolve.

“But there are certain harsh realities on the ground. If the terror acts do not stop, if those who voice terrorist thoughts move about freely, if there is no significant progress in bringing the culprits of the Mumbai massacre to book — that I have to factor in before arriving at a final decision,” he said. Singh was talking to reporters on board a special Air India plane on his return home after attending the G20 summit in the Russian city of St Petersburg, reported PTI.  He was asked about the possibility of meeting Mr Sharif amid mounting speculation on this issue and a view in the country that he should avoid meeting his Pakistani counterpart.

“I have always maintained that we can choose our friends, but we have no choice with regard to our neighbours. And therefore, under normal conditions, I would be happy to meet with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whom I respect, who has said the right things about how relations between our two countries should evolve,” he said. The Prime Minister said he was very sad to hear about the killing of prominent Bengali writer Sushmita Banerjee by the Taliban in Afghanistan and described her as a noble person.“It is a very sad development. She was living in Afghanistan for a long number of years. She was engaged in very important social work. So I feel very sad that such a noble person should have been the victim of the Taliban’s wrath,” he said.

Singh said the incident showed that Afghanistan is still plagued by the Taliban menace. “The Government and people of Afghanistan, ultimately, will have to make up their minds whether the Taliban philosophy, particularly with regard to the role of women in society, is the theme which should decide their approach to life,” he said.