Thimphu may be turning point: Indian officials

Indian official says meeting of Pakistani and Indian foreign ministers in Thimphu may pave the way for dialogue.


Express January 25, 2011

NEW DEHLI: The meeting of Pakistani and Indian foreign ministers in Thimphu, Bhuthan, “may pave the way for dialogue on all outstanding issues (between India and Pakistan), including Jammu and Kashmir,” a senior Indian official told visiting Pakistani journalists on Monday.

At the same time, officials here have said that substantive progress, such as the resumption of the composite dialogue between New Delhi and Islamabad, can happen only if Pakistan follows up on prosecuting those behind the Mumbai attacks.

This notion also came forward in meetings with the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi-based think tank, where a former foreign secretary said that the Indian prime minister  was ready to move ahead on talks but was being held back by hawks within his party who feared such a move would “let Pakistan off the hook.”

The general perception emerging in briefings being held in the Indian capital are that, while the Manmohan Singh government is keen to move ahead in improving relations, Pakistan needs to show more progress on the trial of the Mumbai attacks suspects so that people in India are satisfied.

In his comments, Indian foreign office spokesman Vishnu Prakash commented that, while India is sympathetic with the situation in Pakistan with regards to terrorism, “the impact of what happened in Mumbai and its effect on the Indian psyche is not appreciated in Pakistan.” Joint Secretary Yash Sinha in his briefing also commented that Thimphu could well be the turning point for India-Pakistan relations.

The theme that most Indian officials and analysts have picked up on is the slow speed with which Pakistan is proceeding against suspects allegedly behind the Mumbai attacks. Fourteen months have passed, three judges have been changed as have two prosecution lawyers and only two witnesses have been produced. If Pakistan, they say, is able to show movement on this, the two countries can start talking.

Another point that has been raised here is whether Pakistan and India are at this point even interested in taking things forward. There are questions being raised on the ability and willingness of the Zardari government to move ahead. In this regard, the April visit of foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi to New Delhi is been keenly anticipated. Many here are still sour over an earlier visit by Pakistan foreign secretary, Salman Basheer. One Indian retired official even said that Basheer was “publicly rude” during his interactions here.  This showed how non-serious the Pakistani was at that time, he commented.

But Thimphu and Qureshi hold much promise. There are expectations of movement on the issue of liberalisation of the visa regime, increasing trade and releasing prisoners of each other’s countries.

At the same time, questions being asked in India are about Islamabad’s commitment to dialogue and peace. The message that seems to be coming out here is that while India has no option but peace talks because it is part of a greater goal of economic turnaround, no such desire exists in Pakistan at this stage. One official also speculated that back channel diplomacy was already in place for the leadership of the two countries to start talking. They point to the visit of former foreign minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri as a possible step in that direction.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 25th, 2011.

COMMENTS (16)

Faisal | 10 years ago | Reply You are taking about Mumbai attacks and what about attacks inside Pakistan which has killed 3000+ people in last three years. We cannt forget the Mariiot Hotel blast, attack on FIA building Lahore, attack on CIA centre Karachi, attack on innocent people of Pakistan and specially people of Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa who have been killed due to activities of foreign supported millitants. If India wants peace in the region it has to close down its support for millitants in Balochistan and FATA then Pakistan will be in a position to talk and allow trade to India through its land routes. and above all Kashmir issue is the top most priority as Kashmir if not resolved could be cause of a devastating nuclear war which will be harmful not only for Pakistan but also for India. So India has to think on that and resolve the issue amicablly through dialogue process
Ani | 10 years ago | Reply Pakistani elite, without any debate on right and wrong, with a stroke can: discard the secular dream of their founder, conduct coups, change the constitution, commit genocide aganist their own, export terror, rent the country to foreigners, hang their own elected leaders and declare wars. But when it comes to prosecution of their own citizens, who openly perpetrate violence in India, "respect for laws and judicial process" are invoked! Why such a contradiction? Can you imagine the postive impacts a speedy and successful prosecution would have on the morale of the liberal Pakistanis and on the image of Pakistan world wide. In addition, strictly in terms of diplomacy, would that not put the burden on India to receiprocate and have meaningful talks on territories and trade!
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