M A I N   N E W S

Manmohan sets new terms of endearment for Pakistan
Talks off if another 26/11-type attack; will visit Pak only for ‘solid business’
Raj Chengappa, Editor-in-Chief, On Board PM’s Aircraft

November 12
Two days after a feel-good meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani on the sidelines of the SAARC summit in Maldives, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today clarified the new terms of endearment.

Facing flak already from Opposition members for calling Gilani “a man of peace”, Manmohan Singh was categorical that any progress in relations with Pakistan would be dependent on Indian public opinion being satisfied that Islamabad had done justice to those who had perpetrated the Mumbai 26/11 attacks. “Otherwise the peace process between us can’t move forward,” he reportedly told Gilani in his meeting with him.

Not mincing his words, Manmohan Singh said, “While I remain optimistic about the resumed dialogue process, relations between India and Pakistan are always subject to incidents.” He revealed that he had discussed with Gilani the action taken so far by Pakistan on the 26/11 attacks and had warned his counterpart that “another incident like the Mumbai terror attacks would be a setback to the process of normalisation that had been started.”

The Prime Minister said Pakistan had agreed to send a Judicial Commission to visit India and gather evidence to prosecute those accused over the 26/11 attacks and he “expected some progress in that area.”

Manmohan Singh defined his approach to Pakistan as one of “trust but verify.” Anticipating that Opposition parties were likely to lampoon him for his praise for Gilani during the Parliament session beginning soon, the Prime Minister made it clear that “he did not have blind faith in one individual and would look for genuine movement towards normalisation of relations”.

Manmohan Singh clarified that he had met Gilani four times so far and found him willing to discuss all matters, including terror. He was hopeful that the second round of the resumed dialogue would be a more informed one and was optimistic about its outcome.

He said in his talks with his counterpart he got the impression that the Pakistan Army was on-board with the peace initiative.

Asked what would be the test of Pakistan’s sincerity on issues, he said if there was “solid evidence” that Pakistan’s establishment was involved in encouraging acts of terror that would be a negative. But if steps were taken to normalise trade relations with India, including implementing the Most Favoured Nation status announced recently, he would consider that “a positive move forward”.

Asked whether he had taken a decision on the “emotional” request by Gilani to visit Pakistan soon, Manmohan said that the offer had been made to him several times in the past and he had accepted the invitation in principle. He said he had not made up his mind when she should go, but was waiting “for the right moment.” Setting the conditions for such a visit, Manmohan Singh said, “It will be when I believe we can do some solid business together.”

In his interaction with the media on-board the Prime Minister’s special flight, Manmohan Singh was willing to take questions on a wide range of issues and spoke with ease and confidence. On the hot issue of lifting the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in certain areas of Jammu and Kashmir, he made it clear that it would be a considered decision.

He said the decision to lift AFSPA in any area in the state would be based on the security situation and consultation with various political parties. It was his impression, “that the process had not been completed”. 

Kingfisher trouble

I have not applied my mind to Kingfisher’s problems. When I get back, I will talk to (Civil Aviation Minister) Vayalar Ravi and we will explore ways and means in which the airlines can be helped.

Ties with Pakistan

I tend to believe that Pakistan has a democratic government. We would like to strengthen its hands. When I did discuss with the Pakistan Prime Minister, the feeling I got after long was that Pakistan’s armed forces were on board.

What the PM said

AFSPA Withdrawal

All those in charge of security and those dealing with handling all the security forces should sit and objectively discuss.

Telangana tangle

We want consensus where all shades of opinion will feel (that the solution arrived at) is the best.

Bigger role for Rahul

It is a party matter. I cannot talk about it. If Rahul Gandhi assumes any responsibility, I will welcome it.





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