Unusually, the meeting between the prime ministers of India and Pakistan went almost unnoticed, as the blazing floodlights shone down on action on the cricket field. But this is not to say, however, that the dialogue was insignificant. Though the 90-minute dialogue between prime ministers, Manmohan Singh and Yousuf Raza Gilani, took the form of a relaxed conversation rather than a formal summit meeting, the tone set was important. The environment remained consistently positive, with Mr Singh suggesting that ancient hostilities be forgotten and accepting Mr Gilani’s invitation to Pakistan. The more contentious issues between the two countries will need to be taken up in the future, with India’s Foreign Secretary, Nirapuma Rao, stating that the events of 2008 in Mumbai had not been put behind by India. However, she emphasised that both sides had agreed to exchange delegations, improve cricketing ties and, generally, move towards friendship.
These are positive signs. So was the fact that Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and some parliamentarians joined the two men. There was little evidence of the animosity that has haunted India-Pakistan ties in the past. This in itself is hugely important. It seems things can only move forward from here. It was clear the heads of government of both countries desired peace and saw how important it was to gain it. What will be important over the coming months is for this spirit to be taken maximum advantage of. Contacts at all levels need to be expanded and every measure taken to ensure there is no further interruption in this process. The words of both leaders at the end of the dialogue have been positive. Mr Gilani has spoken of the need to resolve the issues of poverty and deprivation faced by both countries; Mr Singh has thanked Mr Gilani for visiting India, and we must now hope the general goodwill created by the cricketing diplomacy allows more entrenched issues to be solved one by one, as the process of negotiation and discussion, pivotal to reaching accord and bringing relations back to normalcy, continues at various levels.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 01st, 2011.