Foreign secys’ meet sets stage for Singh-Gilani talks today
Anita Katyal writes from Sharm el-Sheikh
With Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani set to meet on Thursday, the Foreign Secretaries of the two countries were locked in furious parleys to prepare a roadmap for moving forward with their stalled dialogue process.
Barring a last-minute hitch and despite their unresolved problems, India and Pakistan appeared to be looking for a positive outcome at Thursday’s meeting.
There were strong indications that this meeting between the two premiers being held on the fringes of the 15th NAM summit could result in a joint statement or a press conference signalling their willingness to move ahead with their dialogue process.
India’s Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and his Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir held two formal rounds of detailed discussions at this Egyptian sea resort and were in touch through the night to sort out all outstanding issues before the crucial meeting.
Menon refused to give details about his discussions in his late night media briefing except to say they were “good and detailed.” Reiterating that India is looking for credible action against the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks, he admitted that Pakistan had handed over a dossier to them detailing the steps they have taken in this regard.
Replying to questions, he disclosed that the dossier contained the names of five arrested accused and five proclaimed offenders. Several terrorist organisations have also been named in connection with the Mumbai blasts, he said, but did not disclose the names.
The case of Jamat-ud-Dawa chief Hafees Saeed mastermind of the Mumbai blasts, who was released following a court order, also figured in their discussions. This has been one of the sticking points between India and Pakistan with New Delhi pressing Islamabad to take action against Saaed.
Admitting there are difficulties in India’s relations with Pakistan, Menon said their effort is to see how they should deal with them.
Focusing on the singular issue of terrorism, India has been insisting that their peace talks can only resume if Pakistan demonstrates its seriousness on punishing those responsible for the Mumbai carnage. India also wants an assurance from Pakistan that it will not allow its territory to be used for launching terror attacks against India.
India’s concern on terrorism was articulated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in his address at the NAM summit. Although he did not name Pakistan, he underlined that terrorists and those who aid and abet them must be brought to justice, a clear reference to New Delhi’s demand that Islamabad act against the plotters of the Mumbai carnage. “The infrastructure of terrorism must be dismantled and there should be no safe havens for terrorists,” he said.
On his part, Gilani spoke positively about pushing ahead with the peace.“There has been a forward movement in our relationship with India and we hope to sustain the momentum and move towards complete engagement,” he told the NAM summit today. He did make the mandatory reference to Kashmir but only in passing. “We believe durable peace in South Asia is achievable, facilitated by all outstanding disputes including Kashmir,” he added.
The speeches made by Manmohan Singh and Gilani at the NAM summit were a reflection of their respective stated national positions. New Delhi wants Pakistan to take action against the jehadi groups operating against India from its territory while Islamabad links peace to the resolution of the Kashmir dispute.
However, both India and Pakistan have been under pressure from Washington to resume talks to lower tensions in the sub-continent. With US secretary of state Hillary Clinton reaching India later this week for a five-day visit, it has become imperative for New Delhi and Islamabad to publicly demonstrate their willingness to remain engaged with each other.
After months of strained relations, the ice was broken last month when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met Pakistan president Asif Zardari on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Yekaterinburg, Russia. The two leaders had agreed that their respective Foreign Secretaries would meet to discuss all outstanding issues and report back to them.