KARACHI: A day after the “failed talks” between the foreign ministers of Pakistan and India, Indian newspapers were on Friday rife with recrimination about the dialogue, most of them putting the blame on Islamabad for the fiasco.
But Pakistani analysts believe that the talks were doomed even before they opened. They say that the “uncalled for” comment of India’s Home Minister G.K. Pillai ahead of Thursday’s talks darkened the mood. Pillai accused Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency, the ISI, of orchestrating the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
The Indian media was largely negative about the meeting between Shah Mahmood Qureshi and his Indian counterpart S M Krishna in Islamabad. “Serious differences mar Indo-Pak talks,” reads the headline in English-language tabloid Mail Today.
“Foreign Minister S M Krishna and his Pakistani counterpart, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, met in Islamabad to discuss various issues. But before long, reports emerged of there being serious difference and the talks heading nowhere,” wrote the newspaper in its Friday edition.
“Though both Krishna and Qureshi stuck to positive overtones, it could not camouflage the sharp differences on a number of issues, including Kashmir and Islamabad’s lax attitude towards prosecuting Pakistanis involved in Mumbai’s 26/11 carnage,” the paper wrote.
India had snapped a slow-moving peace talks with Pakistan (composite dialogue in diplomatic jargon) after gunmen mounted brazen attacks on popular landmarks in the Indian financial capital in November 2008. New Delhi blames Pakistan-based militant groups for the carnage calling for Islamabad to act against the perpetrators.
The Times of India said that “the foreign ministers’ meetings all but collapsed in a welter of accusations... Pakistan steadfastly refused to engage in any substantial manner with the critical areas of Mumbai attacks, cross-border terrorism and infiltration, choosing to argue that Islamabad could not speed the judicial process.”
Pakistan has admitted that the Mumbai attacks were planned partly on its soil and an anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi has already charged seven suspects, including alleged mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi.
The talks, which began with great optimism, ended in tensions and disagreement, with both ministers failing even to put up a smile on their sombre faces at the joint news conference.
“S M Krishna and his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi could only agree that their talks were frank and honest ... and that they would meet again at some unspecified point of time,” wrote The Hindustan Times under the headline, “Indo-Pak talks stall at terror roadblock.”
“Fissures run deep but India, Pak agree to meet again,” reads the headline in The Indian Express newspaper. “After seven hours of extended talks in Islamabad... External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi emerged to spell out the outcome of the dialogue but the initial warmth and commitment to restore confidence soon evaporated. It was replaced by tit-for-tat responses on a range of issues,” the paper wrote.
The ultimate goal had been to resume the stalled composite dialogue and bridge the trust deficit, but there is no denying the fact that Thursday’s talks yielded little concrete agreement beyond assurances and Krishna’s invitation to Qureshi to visit India. Irked by lack of progress at the Krishna-Qureshi meeting, India’s main opposition BJP demanded the government pull out of talks, saying that there was no point in having “talks for talks’ sake.”
The Times of India went a step ahead to suggest that majority of Indians subscribe to the BJP’s viewpoint. According to an online survey conducted by the paper, an overwhelming majority of Indians opposed further talks with Pakistan.
Visitors on its website were asked, “Is it time for India to call off the talks?” Eighty-five per cent of respondents said, “Yes”, with some saying that “there is no point in talking to terrorists”. Only 15 per cent of Indians replied in the negative, with some of them saying, “It is always better to keep on talking.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 17th, 2010.
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