New Delhi keeps watch on Islamabad politics

Even as New Delhi and Islamabad are set to hold a series of talks over the first few months of 2012, India is cautiously keeping watch on the evolving domestic political situation in Pakistan and assessing its possible implications of the growing signs of instability in the neighbouring country on the future course of bilateral engagements.

New Delhi and Islamabad are expected to finalise soon the dates for the Home Secretary-level talks, which will mark the beginning of the second round of parleys between the two neighbours after the post-26/11 diplomatic chill. The series of talks on issues like Jammu and Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek and Wullar Barrage or Tulbul Navigation Project are likely to be followed by a review by the two countries’ foreign ministers sometime in the middle of the year.

If the parleys go well and nothing unforeseen happens in the next few months, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna may travel to Islamabad sometime in next June or July to hold talks with his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar and review the outcomes of the second round of talks.

Sources in New Delhi said that the roadmap of the engagement over the next few months and success of the parleys would depend largely on the evolving domestic political situation in Pakistan, where speculations about an impending military coup had been rife over the past several weeks.

“An inherently stable Pakistan is one of the pre-requisites for stability and success of India-Pakistan ties,” said a senior official. “A stable and prosperous Pakistan that is at peace with itself and with its neighbours is in the interest of India.”

The Pakistan People’s Party-led Government in Islamabad was thrown into a crisis when Pakistani-American businessman Mansoor Ijaz revealed details of a controversial memo on October 10. The memo sought US help to prevent a feared military takeover in Pakistan after the killing of Osama bin Laden at Abbottabad in May.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari added fuel to the fire when he abruptly left the country for medical treatment in Dubai, giving rise to speculation that he feared a coup.

Though Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani sought to ease the post 26/11 strain in the bilateral ties when they met at Bhutanese capital Thimphu in April 2010, the real thaw in the ties came in March 2011, with a meeting between Home Secretaries of the two countries in New Delhi.

The talks between the then Home Secretary G K Pillai and his Pakistani counterpart Chaudhary Qamar Uz Zaman marked the resumption of the structured dialogue between the two countries after a long gap.

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