Siddharth Varadarajan

Journalist | Writer | Analyst

India, Pakistan positive on talks

But looking only for modest gains …

16 July 2009
The Hindu

India, Pakistan positive on talks

But looking only for modest gains

Siddharth Varadarajan

Sharm-el-Sheikh: Indian Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon and his Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir met here late on Tuesday night and again briefly on Wednesday as part of renewed efforts by the two countries to restart the dialogue process and address the recurring problem of terrorists using Pakistani territory to launch attacks in India.

Mr. Menon said Tuesday’s talks, which lasted 90 minutes, involved “good,” “detailed and lengthy” discussion on the issues he and Mr. Bashir had been tasked to take up. Apart from the dossier Pakistan had prepared on its investigations into the Mumbai terrorist attack, the Foreign Secretary said he was briefed by his counterpart on the steps Islamabad had taken. “I told him of our concerns and he told us what they had done and of their determination to fight terrorism,” Mr. Menon said. “But our job was to report back to our leaders, not draw conclusions.”

Although the Indian side had earlier suggested Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Yousaf Raza Gilani could “meet” the press together after their scheduled meeting on July 16, Mr. Menon was unwilling to predict the outcome of the principals’ meeting, including whether or not there would be a joint statement of some kind. He said the question of “form” was less important than dealing with the conditions generating stress in the relationship and urged the media not to speculate about what was still a work in progress. “The less you speculate, the less likely you are to go wrong,” he said.

Speaking to The Hindu, Pakistani Foreign Ministry officials also described the Foreign Secretaries’ meeting as positive. “Quite a lot has been done on our side [to address India’s concerns],” a Pakistani official said. “Now let us see if the two Prime Ministers can agree to a resumption of the dialogue process.”

As of now, it appears the Indian side is looking only for modest gains from Sharm-el-Sheikh and that there is considerable internal resistance to the resumption of the composite dialogue. “I don’t think there will be any dramatic announcement here,” a key South Block official said. But he added that this did not mean there had not been very definite forward movement. “Things are moving slowly, but they are moving.”

In private, Indian and Pakistani officials said a further round of “talks about talks” could be held on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in September, though perhaps only at the Foreign Minister or Foreign Secretaries level.

Mr. Menon said the Pakistani dossier on Mumbai — which is still being evaluated by India — named five individuals who were under arrest there, nine who were proclaimed offenders but absconding and some others who might also be involved in the conspiracy. “The names of terrorist organisations also figure,” he said declining to provide any details since Pakistan had not made the report public.

On June 17, 2009, Dr. Singh and President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan met on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Yekaterinburg and agreed to ask their Foreign Secretaries to discuss what Pakistan had done and could do to address India’s concerns relating to terrorism.

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This entry was posted on July 16, 2009 by in Indian Foreign Policy, Pakistan, Terrorism.

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