Mohali spirit

While excitement over the world cup semi-final match between India and Pakistan and the presence of the two prime ministers at Mohali dominated sentiments in both countries, quiet progress was made in the talks between home secretaries in New Delhi this week. The mood at the talks must have been lifted by the invitation to prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to visit Mohali to watch the match. The talks between the  prime ministers yielded no specific agreement. As foreign secretary Nirupama Rao described them, they were more a conversation than talks. But the positive atmosphere created by the talk and the commitment for normalisation of relations, all of which may together be called the Mohali spirit, may help to take the mutual engagement forward. This presupposes the absence of an obstruction like the Mumbai terrorist attack. From the legitimate Indian point of view, this casts a serious responsibility on Pakistan to ensure that its deeds are as good as its words.

The decisions to resume cricketing ties and carry forward the ministerial and official level talks are welcome outcomes of the last few days’ interaction. The joint statement issued at the end of the home secretaries’ meetings showed concrete results on some vexatious issues. The agreement to entertain each other’s judicial commission on the 26/11 investigations and liberalisation of the bilateral visa regime are among them. The decision to set up a hotline at the home secretaries’ level to share information on terrorist threats is useful, especially because the joint anti-terror mechanism is now dysfunctional. There was forward movement on the demand of both countries relating to the Samjhauta Express blast investigation and on the voice samples of those involved in the 26/11 attack. Other positives included a humane attitude in the treatment of prisoners and fishermen and addressing of issues like human trafficking, counterfeit currency and cyber crimes.

These can lay the basis for co-operation in many areas of mutual concern by serving as  confidence-building measures. Together they mark some progress in reviving the bilateral relationship and in reducing the trust deficit. The engagement process flagged off now is still not the composite dialogue that Pakistan is keen on, but it will help both countries to find more commonalities and reduce differences.

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