Trust deficit less now, India, Pak say

Trust deficit less now, India, Pak say

After a series of meetings at the Maldivian island of Addu Wednesday, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar said the ‘trust deficit’ between the two neighbours had reduced.

Since 10 terrorists of Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayyiba carried out the November 26, 2008, Mumbai attacks and killed over 160 people in a three-day-long carnage, New Delhi maintained that the strike resulted in a trust deficit between Islamabad and itself.
Though Islamabad is yet to act on New Delhi’s call for speeding up the trial of the seven 26/11 accused, Krishna joined Khar to strike a positive note ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani.
Singh and Gilani are likely to meet Thursday on the sidelines of the 17th summit of the SAARC. Krishna, who reached Addu early Wednesday, met Khar thrice – first over coffee, then over lunch and then again for formal bilateral parleys – to set the stage for the meeting between the two prime ministers. “Terrorism continues to be the focal point of India's dialogue process with Pakistan. So when we discuss bilateral issues, we certainly factor terror and its various ramifications,” he said.

Striking a positive note earlier in the day, Krishna said: “I think our relationship with Pakistan is becoming a little more stable than what it was before,” Krishna told journalists onboard the special aircraft on his way to Addu.

“We are optimistic for the outcome of our dialogue with Pakistan. That doesn’t mean that we are going to solve every outstanding problem.”

However, Krishna prefers to be optimistic and said: “The atmospherics is very encouraging. The trust deficit (between India and Pakistan) is shrinking. The trust level has gone up very much.”

Despite concerns over anti-India terrorist outfits based in Pakistan and the tardy progress over the trial of the seven LeT operatives in Rawalpindi in connection with the November 26, 2008 attacks, New Delhi sought to play up the positive vibes from Islamabad ahead of the Singh-Gilani meet.

Top government officials said that New Delhi considered Pakistan’s gesture of allowing an Indian Army chopper to return to its base after it strayed across the Line of Control on October 23 last and its decision to grant the most favoured nation (MFN) status to India in order to boost bilateral trade as ‘positive’ indications from Islamabad.

They also noted that Pakistan was preparing to send a judicial commission to Mumbai to record the statements of the investigating officer and key witnesses in connection with the 26/11 soon.

The meeting between the two prime ministers on Thursday is going to be their second this year. They last met at Mohali near Chandigarh on March 31 last, after Gilani accepted Singh’s invitation to watch the world cup semi-final match between the Indian and Pakistani cricket teams. Cricket diplomacy helped defrost bilateral relations, as the two prime ministers met just a day after the then home secretary G K Pillai and his Pakistani counterpart Qamar Uz Zaman concluded their two-day parleys in New Delhi.

The Pillai-Zaman meet marked the restart of the structured talks between the two countries, almost two-and-a-half years after New Delhi suspended its composite dialogue with Islamabad in protest against the 26/11 attacks.

The home secretary-level talks was followed by several rounds of dialogue by officials of the two countries and the agenda included counter-terrorism, including progress of the trial of the 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.

Though New Delhi still shies away from calling it a resumption of the composite dialogue, all the eight issues once covered by the stalled process are now on the agenda of the fresh round of talks.

Krishna and Khar had reviewed the outcome of the talks during the latter’s visit to New Delhi on July 27, when the two countries announced a series of confidence building measures across the Line of Control.