NEW YORK: The meeting between Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the New York Palace Hotel ended with both PMs agreeing to reduce violence over their disputed border in Kashmir and restore ceasefire.
Singh and Sharif met for a little more than an hour on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly amid heightened tensions and political pressure.
At arrival in the hall‚ the two Prime Ministers warmly shook hands and introduced their delegations to each other before proceeding for the meeting behind closed doors.
Officials from both sides stated that the talks happened in a “friendly atmosphere” and covered various issues of bilateral interest including terrorism, tensions along the border, Mumbai attacks and trade between the neighbouring states.
Nawaz Sharif extended his Indian counterpart an invitation to visit Pakistan, which Manmohan Singh accepted and reciprocated with an invitation to visit India.
The general understanding which emerged from the discussion was that trade and other matters between the two countries could be pursued after basic issues like terrorism had been dealt with.
Meeting ‘useful and constructive’
Minutes after the meeting, Indian National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon and Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani talked with reporters, describing the meeting in positive terms.
Jilani confirmed that the two countries had decided to seek peace through setting up a meeting between the Directors General Military Operations (DGMOs) of both sides.
He said there was a resolve to eliminate problems between the two countries, but a date for future talks had not been set.
Menon, in a detailed question/answer session, affirmed his impression of the talks as “useful and constructive.”
“My impression was, it was useful and constructive. There was clearly a desire from both sides to have a better relationship. I think what we need to do is work hard on the relationship in the next months.”
While responding to questions from the media, Shankar said the prime ministers had pledged to “restore ceasefire and make sure it stays in place”.
When asked if anything specific had been gleaned from the talks, Menon said that the stage for broader dialogue had not arrived yet.
“Both sides want to see a better India-Pakistan relationship than we have right now. Both want peace and tranquility along the Line of Control. The stage of broader dialogue has not come yet.”
He did confirm that the issues of Siachen and Sir Creek had been part of the discussion, and the Pakistani Prime Minister had expressed readiness to respond to Mumbai attacks.
“On the Pakistani side, Nawaz Sharif mentioned the incidents of terrorism his country had been suffering from. From our side, the Indian Prime Minister mentioned Mumbai attacks. Nawaz said that any due action will be taken now that the Pakistani judicial commission is in India to complete its investigations.”
At the same time, Menon also said that when the issue of Balochistan was mentioned in the meeting, Manmohan Singh had explicitly stated that there was no question of India interfering in Balochistan.
“The PM has clarified,” said Menon, “that there is no question of India interfering in Pakistan’s internal affairs or at least no evidence. If any evidence does turn out, we’ll be happy to look into it.”
Menon reiterated that the real and broader outcomes will crucially depend on how relations between the two countries are maintained in the months ahead.
Going in with a ‘positive mind’
Earlier, Nawaz said that he is going in with a positive mind and is hopeful of a positive outcome hours before his meeting with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Nawaz Sharif has maintained that he wants to pick up the threads of Pakistan’s relations with India from where it was left off in 1999.
“Acts of terror are unfortunate but they should not derail the dialogue process,” Nawaz had said.