India to keep close watch on Pak events

Prepares for a possible reshuffle in Islamabad

Though India is closely monitoring the stand-off between the Army and civilian establishment in Pakistan, New Delhi is understood to have reconciled to the fact that it would have to learn to deal with whatever government is in power in Islamabad – military or democratically elected.

“We are closely following developments in Pakistan,” Home Minister P Chidambaram told a news-conference, even as New Delhi appeared to be pursuing a wait-and-watch policy and refrained from making any substantial comment on the “internal situation” of the neighbouring country.

Political instability in Pakistan was on Thursday informally discussed in a meeting of the Cabinet Committee of Security (CCS),  chaired by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. Chidambaram declined to divulge details of the CCS’ discussions on the situation in Pakistan.

As Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari suddenly flew out to Dubai in the midst of a continuing stand-off between the military establishment and the government, New Delhi is assessing the implication of the evolving situation in the neighbouring country over the future course of its engagements with Islamabad.

While Pakistani Commerce Minister Makhdoom Muhammed Amin Fahim is understood to have invited his Indian counterpart Anand Sharma to visit Islamabad next February and sign agreements to lower non-tariff barriers and boost bilateral trade, the diplomats of the two countries are in touch to finalise the dates for the home secretary level talks, which will mark the beginning of the second round of parleys between the neighbours after a gap of over two years.

After a series of talks on issues like Jammu and Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek and Wullar Barrage or Tulbul Navigation Project over the past few months, the foreign ministers of both the countries are likely to review the outcomes sometime in the middle of the year.

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna may visit Islamabad sometime in June or July to hold talks with his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar and review the results of the second round of talks.

As the controversy over the memogate scandal led to a confrontation between the Army and civilian government in Pakistan fuelling speculation for a coup, New Delhi has been maintaining that it would be ready to work with Islamabad for normalisation of bilateral ties, no matter who is in power there.

“Even if Pakistan has a civilian government, it is the Army that calls the shot, particularly on sensitive issues like its relation with India. So even if there is a coup and change of regime in Islamabad, it hardly matters as far as our engagements with Pakistan are concerned,” former Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan, Satish Chandra, told Deccan Herald.

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