Cutting trust deficit must for success: Singh

Indo-Pak talks: Important to have best possible relations with neighbours

While addressing the media in connection with the first anniversary of UPA’s second tenure in office, Singh also acknowledged that India and Pakistan had trust deficit even before the November 26, 2008, terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

Singh’s  meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani on the sidelines of the SAARC summit in Thimphu on April 29 had signaled end of the post 26/11 diplomatic chill between New Delhi and Islamabad. A month after this, Singh identified the trust deficit between the two neighbours as the “biggest problem.”

Singh and Gilani had agreed in Thimphu that the foreign secretaries and foreign ministers of the two neighbours would meet as soon as possible “to take the process forward” and to explore ways “to restore trust and build mutual confidence.”

Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao is likely to meet her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir in Islamabad towards the end of June. This will be followed by a meeting between External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi in July.

“Our common endeavour is to bridge or to reduce the trust deficit, that is why we agreed that our foreign ministers will meet,” said Singh, referring to his meeting with Gilani.
He said it was important for India to “have the best possible relations” with Pakistan and other neighbours to realise the “full development potential” of the country. “It has been my effort to try to reduce the gap between our two countries without surrendering or without affecting our vital national interests.”

The prime minister officially acknowledged for the first time that the composite dialogue process that was initiated in February 2004 had made little progress before the Mumbai attack.  Singh indicated that New Delhi was in no mood to resume the stalled composite dialogue and would rather prefer to develop a new template for its engagements with Islamabad.

He, however, said New Delhi was willing to discuss all outstanding issues with Islamabad, but the latter should ensure that Pakistani territory would not be used for terrorism against India.

Singh said he was hopeful that the dialogue could move forward and that was the message he had got from his counterpart as well. However, when asked again about the success of the process, Singh said: “We will make every effort to normalise the ties. But whether it will succeed or not, only future can tell.”

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