ADDU ATOLL - In the picture-perfect setting of a courtyard in the Shangri-La island resort in Addu Atoll, hordes of press persons gathered under the hot sun for what was presumably the highlight of the SAARC session a much-anticipated meeting on the sidelines between Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Traditionally the setting of such tense trysts between the two countries, this years SAARC summit was no different in that respect from last years in Bhutan. Then, as now, the same two prime ministers represented their countries in 'talks again held on the sidelines. Furious preparation went into this dialogue, with the foreign offices both sides working day and night to construct an agenda, which both sides would find acceptable, and, more importantly, be able to sell as a win to their respective audiences back home. Expectations back in Pakistan have been mild from the meetings at this summit, however an Indian journalist I spoke to told me that Indian audiences intend to be 'patient and recognise that 'these issues will not be resolved overnight and 'business as usual must continue till such time arrives. I doubt that Pakistani audiences would agree with such an approach. There is a feeling in Pakistan that unless the real issues causing acrimony between the two countries are resolved, all confidence building and goodwill enhancing measures between the two will amount to naught, just like the building of a mansion on a swamp is doomed to fail. Rightly so. This is an honest and straightforward approach. Unfortunately, that is rarely how the business of foreign affairs conducts itself. Yesterdays episode went along the expected trajectory; a 20-minute interaction between the delegations was followed by a half-hour one-on-one dialogue between the two Prime Ministers. After this, they emerged with their respective foreign ministers by their sides, to issue statements to the press. Prime Minister Gilani spoke first, announcing that India and Pakistan had decided to resume dialogues on all issues. He states that their foreign ministers were by their sides to express confidence in them and to empower them to carry forward this dialogue process in the next round of talks. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh began by issuing a compliment to PM Gilani, saying he had always found him to be a 'man of peace and this time, as with all other times the two had interacted, his confidence in him had not been disappointed. PM Singh echoed PM Gilani in saying that all issues, including trade, Siachen, Kashmir and security issues came under consideration in the dialogues and hope was expressed that 'a new chapter in the history of our relationship would be written. PM Singh lamented that 'too much time had been wasted in acrimonious debate and that he hoped this time the two countries would be able to carry forward the talks begun to the satisfaction of both. So far, so expected. Nothing new, nothing revolutionary, good old 'lets take our time and talk about talking about this diplomacy. Another SAARC summit, another promise of Pakistan and India settling the issues that hold them at a distance. The Pakistan-India diplomatic relationship is one that resembles an S-curve. Yesterdays events were indication that we are once again on the upward climb of this graph, but predictably there will be a turning point unless the issues, which are the real bone of contention between the two, are resolved. A short list of such issues would include Kashmir, water quotas, Siachen and Indian-sponsored terrorism in Balochistan. Meanwhile, on the side of this sideline meeting, Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik stole the show, drifting into the press corps and announcing that his remarks were 'off the record before going on to give roughly 26 interviews to 26 different media outlets, mostly Indian, in front of microphones and cameras and notepads without any hesitation. To be fair, several members of the Indian press had not turned on their cameras, until it became obvious that Mr Maliks declaration had been one of ministerial modesty and he was really in no mood to leave without issuing a few zingers which were certain to make headlines the next day in the papers adjacent to the talks between the Prime Ministers. To a question about Ajmal Kasab, Mr Malik likened the Mumbai investigation to the Samjhota Express, drawing parallels between the surprising findings if the latter. His thoughts on Ajmal Kasab himself were summed up in these words, I would like to see him hang from the gallows. On his Indian counterpart Mr Chidambaram, Mr Malik showered effusive praise, calling him pragmatic, practical and positive. To a question about Osama bin Laden, Mr Malik offered the following confusing revelations, He came to Pakistan as a boy, then became a father, then a grandfather; he knew every corner of Pakistan, he was more than a commando. Mr Malik further expanded his theory stating, The ISI, CIA and European intelligence agencies trained him. In response to a query from a BBC reporter about allegations that Pakistan employed a Janus faced attitude towards terrorism, Mr Malik had this to say, It is a vile allegation that we sheltered Osama, we have lost over 36,000 lives. Jihadis turned into terrorists. We are suffering for helping the US against the Soviet Union. Elaborating on Pakistan-India relations, Mr Malik said, We have given them the status of the most-favoured nation what more do you want? Accompanying the interior minister was Mr Shahid Malik, Pakistani High Commissioner to India, who maintained a stony-faced silence while the interior minister spoke and seemed to be somewhat anxious to put an end to the 'off-the-record chat as soon as possible. Mr Rehman Malik certainly gave the Indian press some titillating headlines to juxtapose with a picture of PMs Gilani and Singh shaking hands tomorrow. It may have been better had he exercised restraint and made better preparations to talk on sensitive subjects at a different occasion when such media attention was not focused on the PMs of the two countries meeting each other at SAARC. However, clearly Mr Malik could not resist taking a share of the spotlight and did so to certain effect. I would like to see him hang makes a much better headline than We have decided to resume talks.