Siddharth Varadarajan

Journalist | Writer | Analyst

India keen to engage ‘empowered’ Gilani

After Thimphu, trust building key to emerging dialogue template with Pakistan …

2 May 2010
The Hindu

India keen to engage ‘empowered’ Gilani

Siddharth Varadarajan

New Delhi: The recent empowerment of Pakistani prime minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and his favourable disposition towards peace were important factors in India’s willingness to put the dialogue process back on track.

Providing the first detailed account of the meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan and Mr. Gilani in Thimphu on April 28, senior officials said the question of ‘who India should talk to’ had been answered by the 18th amendment to the Pakistani constitution which enhanced the authority of the prime minister.

But personal equations between the two principals also mattered. “They do manage to communicate well with one another”, an official said. “There is a certain chemistry”. Last year, when Dr. Singh was under fire following the Sharm el-Sheikh summit, Mr. Gilani batted for him by telling reporters that what the Prime Minister had said in Parliament about the controversial joint statement ‘is what we agreed’. Dr. Singh had put an Indian spin on the terror-dialogue delinking issue but the Pakistani PM chose not to score points. “We remember that”, an Indian official told The Hindu. “He seems to be favourably disposed towards peace”.

India is prepared to move ahead on the basis of Mr. Gilani’s latest assurances because the 18th amendment had legally empowered him, the sources said. “In fact, Gilani told us, ‘I’ve come with the authority. I have the support of everyone’.” The sources also appreciated the fact that his statements on India had always been relatively restrained. “Until you show him a door, he has no incentive to start doing anything [about our concerns]. And you give your enemies the chance to say, ‘Look, India is not prepared to budge even a bit’.” Why should we allow them to fuse all Pakistanis behind them, the officials asked.

The sources said India and Pakistan came to Thimphu with constraints but agreed to lower the pitch. “We have opened the door to dialogue. The purpose is to restore trust. That’s what the foreign ministers and foreign secretaries have been tasked to do … This is not a dialogue to solve all issues immediately but to restore trust”.

The officials said Dr. Singh made it clear it is terrorism from Pakistan which has been preventing dialogue. “One of the most important things to restore trust is credible action by Pakistan”. Trust was a dynamic process, the sources said, adding that the “best scenario” would be one where the 26/11 trial ends soon with convictions, Pakistan takes “credible action” against terrorist groups and the dialogue moves alongside. “We had two choices at Thimphu. First, to have ‘talks about talks’. This was the weasel option, of endless arguments about terrorism lists, Kashmir, water etc. The second was to recognise that if the problem is lack of trust, let’s make trust the issue. It opens [things] up”.

Asked if this was a new template, the officials said, “I don’t think you can give it a name. The advantage of this is that it is open. It has potential”.

The one-on-one meeting between the two prime ministers was about clearing the air, the sources said, and not a ‘negotiations meeting’. Mr. Gilani spoke about the problems Pakistan was facing in dealing with terrorism. Dr. Singh replied that the slow pace of the 26/11 trial and the threats being issued by Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed were a source of frustration for India. Mr. Gilani said he understood India’s concerns and that his government would find a legal way to address them.

6 comments on “India keen to engage ‘empowered’ Gilani

  1. Anonymous
    May 19, 2010

    @Anon…you are asking a stupid question. If the terrorist is Islamic, you have to be nice to them, understand the 'core issues', talk about how nice he was as a baby, how cute he was while playing cricket….attribute their actions to various faults of ourselves and so on…even if the terrorist is a Pakistani terrorist. On the contrary if any Hindu were to do something violent you have to take a wide wide brush, dip it in tar and start painting everything and anything black.

    That is the fundamental 'liberal' (read Stalinist fake liberal) norm.

    On the contrary leftist groups can kill, maim, bomb, rape, pillage as they wish, they can also support each other but stalinist yellow press will not question that…

  2. Anonymous
    May 17, 2010

    Out of curiosity, how is the author, a strong proponent of not taking a hard line on Pakistan vis a vis Mumbai in the interests of Peace going to reconcile with this with the need for providing justice to the victims of Mumbai? If we are going to follow the lets not be shackled down by the past, another place this could be applied is Gujarat. Or are we in some surrealistic world where only Pakistani terrorists are treated lightly?

  3. Ganesh
    May 7, 2010

    this AP report as well as several others clearly show us how quickly Pakistan has bent over, stooped, arrested lots of its own citizens with or without proof, interrogated them, and on top of that gave prompt access to US to the arrested terrorists…

    Contrast that will all the verbal gymnastics and too clever by half tricks played after 26/11 even denying that Kasab was their own…to this day these tricks and subterfuge is ongoing.

    Pakistan is sending a clear message to Dr. MMS and all the other misguided peaceniks in India – that it only understands the language of violence. US is able to threaten Pakistan with bombing to stone age without any chance for Pakistan to retaliate or do anything about it.

    Let us get into that position first and then talk to Pakistan.

  4. fatima-ahtesham
    May 6, 2010

    Hope for best for Pakistan

  5. foolsparadise
    May 3, 2010

    The officials said Dr. Singh made it clear it is terrorism from Pakistan which has been preventing dialogue“One of the most important things to restore trust is credible action by Pakistan”.


    You know what, this is what I am talking about, may sound little on Pakistani side, but “What Mr Man Mohan Singh has done for India after 26/11 ???”
    How many anti terror laws, enforcement agencies, cop trainings, Intelligence boost-ups and steps towards public safety has been taken?????? forget about big cities, but imagine Kasab and party would have landed in any smaller town like Cochin or Jaipur, how much local police is prepared to deal with them??????????????

    I personally feel, we should stop playing this game with Pakistan as this does not sound pressurizing them rather reveals our position of WEAKNESS..

  6. Sudhir
    May 3, 2010

    Some questions:

    1. India was “keen” even before Gilani was “empowered” (example, Sharm-el-Sheikh), so who exactly are the sources trying to fool here?

    2. On February 26, the FS said time is not ripe for composite dialogue. What changed from then?

    3. Pakistan has not even conceded to one request of ours. Voice Samples have not been matched. Name-sake arrests have been made. Dossiers have been called literature. What different “promise” did Gilani make from before?

    4. Will the Prime Minister kindly elucidate on the “Steps” taken so far by the Pakistani establishment, because sometime back he gloated that it was “much more than NDA achieved”?

    5. Was a time frame discussed at the meet, wherein we get answers to our terror related questions?

    6. The Foreign Secretaries met in February, and decided to meet again once Pakistan responded to the 3 dossiers submitted. Has it responded? If so, are we satisfied? If not, why are we talking and more importantly what will we talk to them?

    These and many such questions are there in my mind. Will someone kindly answer them, or will they be kept aside thinking that I am just being “sceptic”, or worse a “hawk”?

    – Sudhir

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This entry was posted on May 2, 2010 by in Indian Foreign Policy, Pakistan.



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