Islamabad talks concluded

Home/Interior Secretary level two-day talks have ended in Islamabad. At the conclusion of the talks, a joint statement has been issued highlighting some of the areas on which there was agreement between the parties. On some of the crucial issues like handing over of wanted people to India, particularly the former LeT chief Hafiz Saeed whom India accuses of involvement in Mumbai carnage, the joint statement chose to be evasive. Nobody on our side expects any miracle to happen when official delegations of the two countries meet to discuss bilateral issues. Apart from technical bottlenecks and complicacies at the administrative and political level on each side, there is huge trust deficit between the two countries which cannot be undone overnight. Therefore if we do not find any visible forward move in Pakistan’s commitment to carry forward investigation into Mumbai carnage, it is not surprising. Pakistani Judicial Commission visited Mumbai and has gathered whatever information it needed to be placed before the Pakistani Government of judicial establishment where the culprits of the attack are prosecuted.
Notably before the two-day talks came to an end, Pakistani Interior Minister had given clear indication that more evidence provided by the Indian side about Hafiz Saeed’s involvement was not sufficient to bring a case against him. This was a foregone presumption and Pakistani government is obliged to protect Hafiz Saeed as long as it can and defend him against any irrefutable evidence India might produce. The case is politicized and dragged away from juridical boundaries. It is now accepted by the world community that Pakistan is unable to fight the Frankenstein of terror. Therefore tardy progress in the case of investigating the role of Hafiz Saeed and others and in an overall approach of Pakistan to the issue of terror vis-à-vis India should not make India lose her cool and patience. Indo-Pak relations are very complicated and sensitive, and as such, handlers have to demonstrate high quality of diplomatic skill and patience in carrying forward the bilateral dialogue.
True the signing of relaxed visa regime has been deferred against the expectations of Indian side. It is also true that the deck for doing so had been cleared in the previous meeting of the Secretary level. But then India could not ignore the argument of Pakistani side that it had to complete some internal formalities before the agreement was signed and that the process was in place in that country. Steady and patient movement forward is the key guideline in international diplomacy. Whatever little steps are taken, and these have been rightly detailed in the joint statement, in reality contribute to strengthening of confidence building measures. The Prime Minister has said it many times that India wants a prosperous and strong Pakistan as its neighbor and that India is prepared to have very friendly and cordial relations with the neighbor. He has also reiterated India’s desire of resolving bilateral issues through dialogue and without the use of force. This is astute statesmanship and India is matured enough to understand which side of its cake is buttered.
Poetical pundits in India are of opinion that India should do nothing to destabilize the democratically elected government of Pakistan. It is decisively in India’s interests to have good and cordial relations with Pakistan. Economically or politically weak and rickety Pakistan is not in the interests of India because that could pose serious threat to regional peace and stability. It seems that democracy in Pakistan has come to stay and the judiciary and legislature are functioning correctly. More important for that country is that the Army, too, seems to have changed its old style and is gradually getting reconciled to democratic norms which will have to reign supreme over all institutions in that country. There is fair amount of realization with the democratic government in Islamabad that trade and commerce with India is of crucial importance to her economic revival. That is the reason why Pakistan is conjuring up the grant of MFN status to India. Reading between the lines of the joint statement of two secretaries shows that both countries have a clear vision of the benefits of cooperation on vital issues concerning them like terrorism, trade, drug and fake currency control, release of prisoners and fishermen and above all the perception of resolving mutual differences through dialogue.
In this background the recently concluded talks in Islamabad are indicative of more interaction between the two countries in near future. It is a step by step movement forward. With each session of interaction, the process of mutual understanding will gain increased momentum. Time will prove that they are on the right track.