VILLINGILI ISLAND/MALDIVES: The prime ministers of Pakistan and India pledged on Thursday to write a ‘new chapter’ in their otherwise fragile relationship on the margins of the summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and his Indian counterpart Dr Manmohan Singh first held delegation-level talks for about half an hour, followed by a one-on-one meeting at the picturesque Shangri-La resort hotel on Villingili Island where an overnight stay can cost up to $2,000.
Appearing briefly before the media, both Gilani and Singh appeared positive, but added that they hoped that the next round of talks between the two nuclear-armed neighbours would be more “productive and constructive”.
The emphasis was on burying the past, looking ahead and working towards a resolution of lingering tensions between the two countries.
“We have discussed all core issues including Kashmir. We hope the next round will be more constructive, more positive, and will open a new chapter in the history of both the countries,” the premier told reporters.
Endorsing his view, the Indian prime minister remarked, “I always regard Gilani as a man of peace and every time I meet him my belief is further strengthened”.
‘Moving in the right direction’
Singh said the talks between the two countries had produced positive results since the resumption of the peace process earlier this year. However, he added, more needs to be done to overcome issues that divide the two neighbours.
At the same time, the Indian prime minister also emphasised the mutual benefits of working together, saying, “We wasted lot of time in the past in acrimonious debates”. Gilani also struck a reconciliatory note by saying the peace process between the two countries was moving in the right direction.
Briefing media after the talks, Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said Manmohan Singh said that the period of “accusations and counter-accusations was behind us,” and stressed on key initiatives that emerged from the talks that included the revival of the joint commission and the signing of a visa agreement.
Building on positive momentum generated by Pakistan granting India Most Favoured Nation status in principle, Mathai said the two countries are now planning to move towards a preferential trade agreement.
The two sides also decided to fast-track implementation of cross-border trade and confidence-building measures finalised in July. Commerce secretaries from both countries will meet on November 14 in New Delhi. This will be followed by talks between home secretaries in December that will focus on terror and security-related issues.
SAARC leaders speak out
After the meeting, the leaders attended the opening session of the SAARC summit, where their host, Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed, hailed their dialogue.
“These developments are extremely welcome,” he said. “I hope this summit will be enthused with optimism.”
In his keynote address at the newly built convention centre for the SAARC summit, Gilani said that South Asia had the potential to become a global economic superpower. “The cultural affinity among our peoples is a huge asset,” the premier remarked. He underlined the need for developing technology and alternative energy resources, adding that economic development in the region was closely linked to the availability of energy at affordable price.
Singh, who also addressed the summit, announced new measures to open his country’s markets for the least developed members of the association. He said his government had decided to reduce the number of items on the sensitive list from 480 to 25.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai also spoke, using the opportunity to allay Pakistan’s concerns about his country’s recent strategic partnership pact with India. “We are also looking for a long term partnership with the United States,” he added. “But let me assure you that these agreements are not aimed at any of our neighbours,” Karzai said.
(Read: Setting the tone)
WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM APP
Published in The Express Tribune, November 11th, 2011.
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Dear Amit, It is good that we are interacting through The Express Tribune. I am against all kinds of religious fundamentalism and terrorism. Any person, who truly believes in his religion and humanity, cannot support the killing of a single innocent person. So, every government of SAARC countries should do all their best to stop terrorism and religious fundamentalism. If the terrorist organisations are allowed to prevail repeatedly, India Pakistan relations cannot go ahead. At the same time, we cannot close our doors towards our neighbors. We can choose our friends, but we cannot choose our neighbors. Majority people of Pakistan want good relation with India and Indian people. We cannot allow terrorist’s organizations to hijack our future. Therefore, we have to continue dialogue to solve all our problems.
@Amit: You are crying the killings in Mumbai that happened only once but why have you forgotten that brutal and cruel Indian forces are killing innocent Kashmiri people especially old persons,women and orphaning children and burning their houses daily and no one knows exactly how many innocent people killed,children have been orphaned and women raped by the brutal and cruel Indian forces in Indian Occupied Kashmir? Highly respected sir would you like to explain this reality which has been declared by various human watch organizations in the world?
@Satnam Singh Manak :
do you want to have an all out friendship with Pakistan(which I am not against) at the cost of justice to innocents who were killed in Mumbai ??
I have read the reports about the meeting of India-Pakistan prime ministers and the 17th SAARC SUMMIT, which is being held in the Addu Maldives. Since 1985, we are listening and reading the speeches of different state heads of the SAARC countries on such occasions. When they will start act upon these speeches and previous declarations of SAARC SUMMITS. People of the SAARC countries are fed up because of their unfertile exercises. Time has come to do something fruitful. If our ‘Great leaders’ do not able to fulfill the aspirations of the people of this region, they will not like to hear the name of SAARC. Our governments and leaders have already wasted the 26 years, very long time. Now they should begin to work. They should open the borders of their countries for trade and tourism. They should stop using terrorism as state policy to bleed each other. They should take strong steps to eradicate poverty and unemployment in the region. They should also enhance the production of industrial and non-industrial goods and exchange them with each other according to the requirements of their people. The organisations like SAFMA, Hind-Pak Dosti Manch do more to compel the governments of the SAARC countries to work for peace and prosperity of this region.
And with one stroke our beloved Govt has sent in dustbin any hopes for justice for innocents massacred by Pak sponsored terrorists in Mumbai.
No one is against peace and good relations.. Indians have meekly just asked Pakistan to provide justice in Pakistan.. their courts.. their process.. but of course we know they cant. We know that because we see how much justice they have given to their own innocents who were killed. If it is incompetence please admit and seek help. I hope it is just a status quo type talks by Indian PM and nothing major... because who knows when is next attack happening.
(PS: and please don't keep on talking about Samjhota because they are in jail and courts do work here!!)
Pakistan should vacate POK (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) which legally belongs to India And lo, all the problems are solved.
@Sao Lao: Stop terrorism in Kashmir first and tell yours rulers to mend human rights in Balochistan and FATA
@SAFIUDDIN SIDDIQUI: stop this moronic chorus which has plagued ur country for over six decades.
Assalam-o-Allaikum Warahmatullah.Much the best break through between Pakistan and India but the question rises that how much more and the most important core and burning Kashmir issue is discussed and solved on priority basis between Pakistan and India because Kashmir issue has been the only bone of contention between Pakistan and India from 1947 and especially formally from 1971 and Indian leaders have been declaring Kashmir as the India's integral part.
"We hope the next round will be more constructive, .........."
Merry go round and round and round. The displacement will always be zero at the end. I think these are all useless moves. Pakistan wants to make Mumbai history and India wants to see some stability on the western front. Pakistan thinks by making repeated attack it will mow down India much like an attack by a Lion, India thinks Pak attacks have nuisance value like a wasp bite and that Pak should be diplomatically quarantined and cajoled and nudged to oblige. Non of the plans are full-proof and both wreck the others plan every single time. Behind the media hype Pakistan has taken JUD off the list of banned organizations and India has said there should be no expectations. Just wait for some time and soon some more Pakistani so-called " NON-STATE ACTORS " will attack and this " round " will end. Indian PM will start chanting " Shanti, Shanti " and Pak president will say lets move on, we are not involved, give us proof and then a debate of what is a proof and what is an information etc,etc,etc. Some time will pass watching a fresh drama on a very popular plot and then we will see preparations for the next merry go round. Some leader will again say,
" We hope the next round will be more constructive, ......... "can i have a break please ?
Solve the Kashmir first and tell them to STOP indian terrorism in Balochistan and FATA
Both countries should have better relationship.There should be peace and progress,more trade,more people to people exchange. It just does not make sense to spend huge resources on war machines and citizens not have access in both countries to clean water,safe housing and good education.
:Gilani said that South Asia had the potential of becoming a global economic superpower. He stressed on the importance of developing technology and alternate energy resources."
Do these statements also apply to Pakistan????? Can Gilani support his statements with any real steps his Govt has taken or are they the ideas of a speech writer?
"The two men emphasised their warm friendship and shook hands twice"
Next time they would achieve hat trick!
"“The next round of talks should be far more productive and far more practical-orientated in bringing the two countries closer.”"
The next round always is.
"Indian involvement in Afghanistan is sensitive, with Pakistan vehemently opposed to its arch foe meddling in what it considers its backyard."
How can the PM of an arch foe be a Man of Peace? Even Gilani must be in splits.
@SAFIUDDIN SIDDIQUI: If you beleive india will resolve the kashmir issue to pakistans satisfaction ie hand over the kashmir valley to pakistan, then you are grossly mistaken.It did not happen in 63 years and it will not happen in next 63 million years.You can send as many terrorists as you want indian people will fight.the best thing for pakistan to do is concentrate on what they have.As it is reported in news media pakistan is on verge of losing every thing.
Just wondering why our leaders are ashamed of wearing national dresses. Singh is looking more graceful than Gilani.
Pakistan has lost more of its territory ( E pakistan and Kargil in 1971 ) because of its efforts to wrest Kashmir from India , while Indian Kashmir stays where it exactly was in 1950 and will continue to do so. The more Pakistan desires Kashmir the more it stands to lose. Please don't take my word, Just look at history.
@Yuri Kondratyuk: Full marks for a good sense of humour :)
This is an encouraging sign from elected leaders of both the countries. It is about time that we bury the hatchet once and for all, stop blaming each other and give the gift of peace to our future generations. This is a remarkable step taken so I would avoid speculating on the Deep State's actual agenda... sincerity of the leaders etc etc.. Congratulations Gilani ji and Manmohan Singh ji. We are counting on you to take the peace talk several steps further. I am sure our brothers and sisters across our western borders feel the same way! May peace be upon all of us, here is my Diwali and Eid wish!
@SAFIUDDIN SIDDIQUI: It's great to see that you are more worried about Kashmir and Palestine than Pakistan itself. Just like you, I too am unselfish and often worry about stars, moon and Andromeda galaxy.
@SAFIUDDIN SIDDIQUI: I think pakistan should first solve the problems of Baloch,sindh,and pashtun people instead of poking their nose in kashmir
@vasan: yes...this is the only option
If you expect India to give us Kashmir for achieving peace, then one is in fools paradise, as it never will happen.
and neither of these are Indian’s patrimony as well.
as if it will happen...
Keep postponing the KAshmir issue till the very end. Resolve all other issues, Kashmir will solve itself and the LoC will become International border or soft border. That is the only possible solution.
for those talking about Kashmir, get it out of your minds..
soon there will be another bloast by Pakistani no state actors and all the efforts will go in to waste. History tells us this. Religious elements in pak does not want peace with India. They just want Kashmir although its not helping them anyways.
It's time for the two neighbours - India and Pakistan - to find a solution to their peaceful coexistence. None can get rid of the other and has to put up with each other. Skirmishes and terrorist attacks will only contribute to further resentments and hatred.
Solve the Kashmir issue and everything would be OK.
India is not sincere in resolving the Kashmir issue, this is what we understand from the history of 63 years. They are just gaining time. Due to one or the other reason the discussion is de-railed then we start again from Zero. Western countries do have their dual policies, they are also not sincere in resolving issues like Kashmir & Palestine etc.
Matters would move quicker if Pakistan got a proper fix on two issues - Afghanistan and Kashmir. Neither of these are Pakistan's patrimony.
I hope progress is what they talk about and not how to regress...