India goes soft on Pak

Kashmir, 26/11 now part of fresh composite dialogue

India goes soft on Pak

Terming the decision to restart the dialogue as a ‘pragmatic’ approach, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said here on Thursday that keeping the dialogue in abeyance had not created any “returns for either of us.”

Rao said that India and Pakistan must now engage in a “serious, sustained and comprehensive dialogue”.

The decision to re-start the composite negotiation process marks a clear shift in the country’s recent policy with its neighbour.

So far, India had stuck to a position that a meaningful dialogue with Islamabad was possibly only when the latter would take credible and effective actions to bring all the plotters and perpetrators of the 26/11 carnage to justice and would curb anti-India terrorism emanating from Pakistan.

Making public the outcome of Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao’s parleys with her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir in Bhutanese capital Thimphu last Monday, New Delhi said that the two countries had “agreed to resume the dialogue on all issues.  Both sides have held it in abeyance for far too long and I don’t think it has created returns for either of us. I think this is a very pragmatic decision, a very well thought out decision,” Rao told a TV channel shortly after the two countries formally announced the re-launch of the dialogue process.

A statement issued by the Ministry of External Affairs also listed the issues to be focused on during the fresh round of talks – counterterrorism including progress of trial of 26/11 accused in Pakistan, humanitarian matters, peace and security including confidence building measures and disputes over Jammu and Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek and Wullar Barrage or Tulbul Navigation Project. The home secretaries and other officials of the two countries would hold several rounds of talks on the issues before Pakistani foreign minister visits New Delhi to meet his Indian counterpart External Affairs Minister S M Krishna.

Though the date of the Pakistani foreign minister’s visit is yet to be finalised, the MEA said that he would come to New Delhi by July 2011.

The Pakistan ministry of foreign affairs has also issued a similar statement in Islamabad.
Except the humanitarian matters, all the issues New Delhi and Islamabad agreed to include in the agenda for the coming round of talks at the level of bureaucracy are exactly the ones the two countries had been discussing in the composite dialogue. India and Pakistan had started the composite dialogue in February 2004 to discuss eight issues.

The two countries had completed four rounds of talks in the format till 2008. The fifth round had commenced in July 2008, but remained incomplete.

New Delhi had suspended the process immediately after the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai by 10 terrorists of Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba.

In fact, the then Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and the then External Affairs Minister of India Pranab Mukherjee had reviewed the progresses made in the fifth round during a meeting in New Delhi on November 26, 2008 – just a few hours before Ajmal Amir Kasab and nine other LeT operatives had launched the attacks in Mumbai, killing at least 174 people.

Pakistan has since been clamouring for resumption of the Composite Dialogue with India. New Delhi, however, has been maintaining it could hold a meaningful dialogue with Islamabad only when the latter would take credible and effective actions to bring all the plotters and perpetrators of the 26/11 carnage.

Still, India has decided to restart the dialogue with Pakistan, signaling an evolution of its position since July 2010, when it had blamed the latter’s “all-or-nothing” approach for the failure of Krishna-Qureshi talks in Islamabad. Pakistan had on the other hand accused India of being ‘selective’ in its approach and thus spiking the talks, which had been held after a thaw in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s meeting with his counterpart Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani in Thimpu in April 2010.

India had in fact shown first signs of softening its stand in July 2009 itself, when the two prime ministers had met in the Egyptian city of Sharm-el-Sheikh in July 2009. New Delhi, however, had to refrain from moving towards restarting the dialogue process with Islamabad in the aftermath of sharp criticism both within the ruling Congress-led UPA and from the BJP-led opposition over the joint statement issued by the two prime ministers.

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