Summit leads to thaw in Indo-Pak ties
Thimphu, April 29
At their hour-long meeting, described as an “exercise in soul searching” by Indian officials, the two leaders decided to upgrade the bilateral dialogue to the political level, something which Islamabad had been insisting upon for months.
The meeting, the first between them after their talks at Sharm-el-Sheikh in Egypt in July last year, was seen as an important effort by them to prevent any further slide in the bilateral ties.
After the Pakistani premier assured Manmohan Singh that his government would not allow the misuse of the Pakistani territory for launching terror attacks in India, the two PMs instructed their foreign ministers and foreign secretaries to meet “as soon as possible” to work out the modalities to pave the way for a “substantive dialogue” on all issues of mutual concern to restore trust and confidence in the relationship.
Political analysts, however, pointed out that this was not the first time that the Pakistani leadership has promised not to allow the misuse of the country’s soil for anti-India activities. This commitment has been given to India time and again by Islamabad since January 2004 when Pervez Musharraf was at the helm of affairs.
Also, it is also important to note that India had hitherto been resisting all attempts by Pakistan to raise the dialogue to the political level until Islamabad acted against those responsible for the Mumbai attacks. New Delhi was ready for another meeting between the foreign secretaries --they had last met in New Delhi on February 25 — and wanted to adopt an “incremental approach” in taking the relationship forward.
Briefing reporters on the meeting, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said Prime Minister Singh was forthright in conveying to Gilani India’s concern over the issue of terrorism, increase in infiltration from across the border and Islamabad’s failure to bring to justice the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack. The “terror machine” which operated from Pakistan ought to be dismantled. Gilani told him that Pakistan itself was a victim of terrorism and was determined to deal with the menace “comprehensively and effectively”.
“India is willing to discuss all issues with Pakistan but terrorism is holding back the process of talks between the two countries,” Manmohan Singh told the Pakistani leader.
Although Nirupama refused to be drawn into any controversy when asked if the proposed meetings between the foreign ministers and the foreign secretaries could be termed as the resumption of the composite dialogue process, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told the press at a separate briefing that the two countries have vowed to initiate composite talks.
The two PMs did agree that there was lack of mutual trust that was impeding the normalisation process and it was time to think afresh on the way to move forward. Gilani said his government was serious about prosecuting the seven people arrested in connection with the Mumbai carnage.
Rao said the PM did point out how Hafeez Saeed, the alleged mastermind of the Mumbai attacks, was being allowed to roam about freely and engage in conversation not conducive to relations between the two countries. To this, Gilani said his government had difficulty with the country’s judicial system, which had released Saeed twice after he was arrested. Manmohan Singh hoped Pakistan would strengthen its laws to deal with elements like Saeed.
PM talks of Gilani’s link with India
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made an interesting revelation about his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani at a lunch hosted for SAARC leaders here.
As he shook hands with Gilani and other SAARC leaders at the SAARC Village, he informed them that the Pakistani premier’s forefathers had laid the foundation of the Golden Temple in Amritsar and the Sikh population was aware of the fact. He went on to add that Gilani was looked upon with respect and has a number of spiritual followers in India.
The India and Pakistan Prime Ministers walked together for a while at the lush green lawns of the SAARC Village, ahead of their bilateral meeting. After strolling for some time, they returned to their respective villas in the SAARC Village.
The Prime Minister of Bhutan had invited the heads of SAARC delegations to lunch at which they all sat around a table to be able to converse freely with each other.
When contacted, Indian officials confirmed that the Prime Minister had indeed made these comments.
It is to be pointed out that Gilani belongs to an influential political family from Multan. His father was a descendent of Syed Musa Pak, a spiritual figure of the Qadiri Sufism. He obtained BA and MA in journalism from the University of the Punjab.