Peace process with Pak back on track 'considerably': Khurshid

Peace process with Pak back on track 'considerably': Khurshid

Peace process with Pak back on track 'considerably': Khurshid

Asserting that it will not be influenced by "jingoistic conversations" in sections of the media, the government today said peace process with Pakistan was back on track "considerably" but made it clear that "atmospherics" have to be right to move forward.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, while underlining RPT underlining that it is sensible not to hasten and rush into things, also denied that the government has been boxed into a corner over the ceasefire violations at the Line of Control and the beheading of an Indian soldier by Pakistani troops.

"It is unfortunate that out of context debates take place in media. But the media is free. You have to take the good and bad of the media if you believe in a free society. But we are not going to be influenced necessarily by jingoistic conversations that take place on some sections of the media," Khurshid told Karan Thapar on CNN IBN's Devil's Advocate programme.

He said that the recent talks between Directors-General of Military Operations (DGMOs) of both countries were a "positive signal".

When asked if the peace process has been put on hold, the Minister said, "I don't think so. I think the peace process is going well. What are indications is we have got back on track quite a bit. I don't even know to what extent we had gone off track but certainly there was a sense that we were slipping.

"We have got back on track considerably. That is a good sign and we would want that to continue. But obviously time would tell if we are back on track or not."

On India's reluctance to Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar's offer for talks, Khurshid said "atmospherics" need to improve.

"What we need to do is to ensure that multi-dimensionally the atmospherics improve. We did hit a low point obviously a few days ago and I think it is important that we get back to a level of atmospherics that can be described as near normal (in which) the LoC remains peaceful and there is no incident that is counter-productive and then we can think of moving forward in a meaningful way," he said.

"Isn't it sensible not to hasten and rush into things that you are not fully prepared for and where any failure or any disappointment can lead to implications that are not necessarily very productive?" Khurshid reasoned.

The Minister said there has been a change in Pakistan's stand from trying to internationalise the LoC incidents to now attempting to reach out.

"I think it is a departure from what we heard in the first couple of days and we had made it very clear that it was not very clearly acceptable to us... Our position is that these matters must be dealt with bilaterally between Pakistan and ourselves. Which manner, what manner, what level, these are things that are worked out time to time," he said.

When pointed that atmospherics can be improved through dialogue, he said, "there is a minimal environment that you need for a dialogue and that minimal environment can come in many ways" with passage of time.

"When the environment changes, both sides will know its changed. This is not a private conversation that takes place between two parties, two countries or two Foreign Ministers. It is something in which two nations are involved," Khurshid said.

Asked if the government was boxed into a corner over its response to the LoC violations and the beheading incident, he said, "We are not boxed into any corner. We are taking a decision which we believe is in national interests. We are taking a decision in a very objective, sensible manner and I think it reflects truly what our duty and obligation is at this time. I do believe it is important you take steps seriously so that you don't slip or lead to disappointment".

Khurshid denied that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and he were being held back by their Cabinet colleagues over peace overtures with Pakistan.

He also denied any role of the government in sending back Pakistan hockey players or cancelling Pakistani plays in Jaipur and New Delhi, saying the decisions were taken by organisers themselves.

Khursid clarified that the new visa agreement with Pakistan has not been put on hold. "No visa has been put on hold. Only one element of visas (for elderly at Wagah border) was queried by some of our agencies and it was only a matter of postponing. Who put anything on hold?"

Asked about allegations and reports in media that Indian troops had beheaded Pakistani troopers earlier, Khurshid said, "As far as I am concerned this is a tactical issue that the army can handle, has handled and will continue to handle. I don't think we need to get involved in how the army handles its own troops".

When pressed further, he said, "Just in order to overcome something that is unpleasant, something unacceptable happened now, we are not going to reopen everything going back to 1950. We are not going to... we have to look forward. But something has happened right now (the LoC incident) and we cannot give the impression that nothing causes concern to us. This is something that was of an extreme nature, something that has caught public imagination in a manner which I do believe we needed to respond to and we have".

Asked if Pakistan Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani was "inimical" to India, Khurshid said, "I don't know. I will tell you that the general perception in the past has been that we are better off with civilian governments...We do believe and the Prime Minister has said it many times that democracies don't fight each other".

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