After war of words, back to peace talk

Greater Kashmir

BLOW HOT, BLOW COLD

Islamabad/New Delhi, July 17: Day after a war of words between India and Pakistan almost botched up the Foreign Minister level talks, both the countries Saturday embarked on a damage control exercise asserting that the talks were still on track.
 Toning down his rhetoric, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi today said that Islamabad is very serious about normalising bilateral ties and stressed that the decision to continue talks is a ‘good augury’.
 “We are very serious about normalising our relations with India. I met with my Indian counterpart in Islamabad just day before yesterday. We agreed to embark on a sustained dialogue process. The decision to continue the talks is a good augury,” said Qureshi.
 On the other hand, India’s Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao also sounded conciliatory today making it clear that the talks between India and Pakistan have not collapsed.
 In an interview to a Delhi-based news channel, Rao stressed that the India-Pakistan talks had not “collapsed” and the dialogue process between them “must go on”.
 Emphasising that normal relation between Pakistan and India will have far-reaching salutary effects for South Asia and beyond, Qureshi said: “Pakistan will do its utmost to make this happen.”
 “For too long, Pakistan and India have been entangled in a relationship of conflict. It is high time our two countries engage, with full sincerity of purpose, to resolve all bilateral disputes and make a new beginning of normal relations anchored in sovereign equality and mutual interest,” Qureshi said in his opening remarks at a meeting of officials of the Friends of Democratic Pakistan (FODP) forum.
 The talks between Qureshi and Indian Foreign Ministry SM Krishna Thursday ended in a deadlock over Pakistan raising human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir and India’s insistence that Pakistan give a timeframe for completing trial of the 26/11 perpetrators.
 At a press conference in Islamabad, Qureshi Friday took potshots at Krishna and launched a broadside against what he called India’s ‘selective focus on terror’. He even said the ‘Indian foreign minister received foreign policy directions from New Delhi repeatedly during our meeting’.
 Rebuffing Qureshi’s claim that his Indian counterpart had supported him on his criticism of Indian Home Secretary GK Pillai, Rao today said India did not express any agreement with Pakistan’s comments on Pillai.
 She said that the tone and tenor of Qureshi’s remarks could have been better. “In diplomacy, as in life, such ups and downs are common,” she added.
 Asked if there had been expectations from the talks, Nirupama Rao said: “There were some expectations, and we have a clear set of doables.”
 “Pakistan came to the talks with slightly different expectations. They wanted the entire spectrum discussed. We are not against resumption of dialogue, it has to start in a graduated way,” she added.

WANT CONTINUATION OF DIALOGUE: GILANI
 Meanwhile, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said, “Pakistan wants the continuation of dialogue with India. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has assured me that all issues will be discussed”.
 Gilani, who described Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as an “honourable man”, said “Pakistan wants the continuation of dialogue with India. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has assured me that all issues will be discussed.”
 Speaking on the sidelines of a function in Lahore he said, “We want talks, they (India) too want talks. When talks are held, we will discuss all issues. At this stage, I cannot say anything in the air.”
 Gilani said Singh had assured him that all issues between the two countries would be discussed, an apparent reference to the meeting between the two in Thimphu on the sidelines of the SAARC summit in April.