India, Pak agree to resume dialogue on terror, Kashmir

India, Pak agree to resume dialogue on terror, Kashmir

29 April 2010
The Daily Excelsior


THIMPHU: Bringing in thaw in bilateral relations, Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan today agreed to resume dialogue at the level of Foreign Ministers soon that could lead to parleys on all outstanding issues like terrorism, Kashmir and Siachen. The ice was broken at a 90-minute meeting here between Dr Manmohan Singh and Yousuf Raza Gilani in their first substantive engagement after their discussions in Sharm-el- Sheikh in Egypt in July last year that produced a controversial joint statement. The meeting in ‘Bhutan House’ on the margins of SAARC Summit discussed the entire range of issues, including terrorism and progress of investigation and probe into 26-11 attacks in Pakistan. The two Prime Ministers entrusted the Foreign Ministers and Foreign Secretaries with the responsibility of restoring confidence and trust in the relations that could pave the way for substantive dialogue on outstanding issues of mutual concern. Briefing newsmen after the meeting, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said Dr Singh emphatically told Pakistan that it has to act on the issue of terrorism and that the 'terror machine' in that country needs to be eliminated. Dr Singh conveyed 'deep and continuing concern' over the fact that 26-11 mastermind and Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed was being allowed to roam freely and 'engage in language and communications that are certainly not conducive to the atmosphere of peace and stability', she said. Gilani assured Singh that his Government was making all efforts to bring to justice the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks and not to allow Pakistani soil to be used for terrorism against India. Both sides termed as 'positive', 'cordial', 'very friendly' and 'free and frank' the discussions between the Prime Ministers, which went beyond the slated 45 minutes. The one-on-one meeting lasted an hour and the delegation-level parleys went on for 30 minutes. While there was no joint statement, separate press conferences of Rao and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had similar tone and tenor. Dr Singh 'emphasised to Prime Minister Gilani various issues that cause concern to India - issues relating to terrorism, rise in infiltration and slow progress in the trial of Mumbai attack perpetrators'. Rao said Singh told Gilani that India is willing to discuss all issues of concern with Pakistan and to resolve all outstanding issues through dialogue 'but that the issue of terrorism is holding back progress.' After their Sharm-el-Sheikh meeting, Singh and Gilani had met a couple of times in Washington but it was just for handshake. The Joint Statement after the Sharm-el-Sheikh meeting had created a storm in India with the opposition attacking the Government as it appeared to delink resumption of dialogue and Pakistan’s action against terrorism, especially those involved in the Mumbai attacks. It had also made a reference to Balochistan, where Pakistan alleges India is fomenting trouble. Rao said the meeting was 'an exercise in mutual comprehension because there is lack of mutual trust in the relationship impeding the process of normalisation.' The meeting assessed the reasons for the current state of affairs between the two countries and 'to think afresh on the way forward', the Foreign Secretary said. 'They (Prime Ministers) agreed that relations between the two countries should be normalised and the channels of contact should work effectively to enlarge the constituency of peace in both countries,' Rao said. 'The two Prime Ministers had agreed earlier that dialogue is the only way forward. They reiterated that commitment. They not only reiterated but the two Prime Ministers had agreed to resume dialogue process between India and Pakistan that remained suspended for so many months. That is a very positive development,' Qureshi said. 'It was a very positive meeting. It is a step in the right direction,' Qureshi said. He said both the leaders agreed that dialogue is the only way forward. There was lot of 'soul-searching' and 'confluence of thoughts', Rao said while describing the meeting as a process to understand the state of affairs and charting out a course forward, 'while not abandoning the past'. On the response of Gilani to the concerns raised by Singh, Rao said the 'Pakistani Prime Minister shared his perception on these issues in a candid manner and said Pakistan is serious about prosecuting the perpetrators of Mumbai attacks and that all efforts were being made to bring the trial of these individuals to a speedy conclusion.' Rao said Gilani also assured the Prime Minister that Pakistan will not allow its territory to be used for terrorist activities directed against India. Asked whether outcome of Singh-Gilani meeting would pave the way for resumption of composite dialogue, she said 'I don’t think we have to get stuck with nomenclatures'. She said both sides agreed that dialogue is the only way forward and it was essential to open channels of communication. Rao added that there was a need to restore trust and build mutual confidence On the issue of Saeed, Gilani said there are some difficulties as far as their judicial system was concerned in tackling such issues. 'We expressed the hope that their laws to deal with such issues could be strengthen in times to come,' the Foreign Secretary said. She said both sides have agreed that the Foreign Ministers and Foreign Secretaries will take this process forward now this process of try to build more trust and confidence in the relationship and address all issue of mutual concern. However, she said no modalities have been worked so far. 'Both sides have agreed to meet as soon as possible. We have not fixed any dates so far,' she said. 'The instructions of Prime Minister is that the Foreign Minister and Foreign Secretaries should meet as soon as possible,' Rao said, adding that the 'focus is charting the course forward. That definitely is the message from today’s meeting...Searchlight is really on the future and not on the past.' 'Our concerns about terrorism remains very much on the agenda,' Rao said when asked if India is delinking terror from dialogue. Qureshi said the Foreign Ministers and Foreign Secretaries have been asked 'to meet as soon as possible and meet as frequently as possible.' Dr Singh maintained that it would be essential for Pakistan to address the issue of terrorism and Gilani understood India’s concerns in this regard, Rao said. She said Singh was 'emphatic in mentioning that Pakistan has to act on the issue of terrorism, that the terror machine as he termed it that operates from Pakistan needs to be controlled, needs to be eliminated that was very clearly said.' Gilani on his part said his country was equally seized of the issue and wants to deal with it 'effectively and comprehensively'. Noting that there was a lot of soul-searching here, Rao said 'It (meeting) resulted in an understanding between the two sides that we should honestly intend to take this forward for the good of our two countries, for the good of the region and for the good of destiny of our people'. 'The idea was on renewal of dialogue, to understand the state of affairs in the relationship. What is it that is holding both sides back at the moment? How do we address the state of affairs?' 'The meeting that resulted in understanding between two sides, an honest attempt to take this process forward,' the Foreign Secretary added. While Rao said the issue of Balochistan was not taken up in a specific manner, the Pakistani side maintained that the issue was raised and Singh categorically said India has no intention to destabilise Pakistan. 'We assure you that, we don’t want to meddle in Pakistan’s affairs,' Qureshi said quoting Singh as telling Gilani. Asserting that eventual normalisation between the two countries was good for the people, Rao said, for example, one terrorist attacks sets back the economic wellbeing by so many percentage points and added so both sides wants to focus on development and taking their economies forward...Generally bring peace to the region. Qureshi said it was in the interest of South Asia and millions of people of the region to keep the atmosphere between the two countries positive. 'We have to build on the positive air that was generated from this meeting,' he said. The Pakistan Foreign Minister said the issue of extradition of Mumbai attacks accused Ajmal Kasab and Fahim Ansari did not come up for discussion. 'This issue in particular was not discussed. But that does not mean there is any bar. We can discuss anything that is of mutual concern either to India or Pakistan. There are no prohibitions,' he said. Asked when he would meet Krishna, Qureshi said that he need to contact his Indian counterpart on the timing of their meeting. He noted that Krishna was pre-occupied with the Parliament session. Later, speaking to an Indian television channel, Qureshi said 'I think the stalemate has been broken. I think so, I am very confident that the meeting we’ve had with the Prime Minister were very positive. 'As I have said and I have been consistently saying this to you that he (Manmohan Singh) has his heart in the right place, he is a well meaning man, he is an academic, he is an visionary, he wants to move on.' 'Today, I saw that positive spirit on both sides. The two Prime Ministers were chatting as friends and he said the relationship I want between India and Pakistan should be such that we address each other by first names,' he said. (PTI)


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