New Delhi: India and Pakistan, after breaking a peace impasse in Bhutan, are moving rapidly towards reviving talks, with foreign minister S.M. Krishna and home minister P. Chidambaram scheduled to visit Pakistan in the next few months.
In a day of rapid developments, India responded to the initiative of Pakistan foreign minister S.M. Qureshi and agreed to Krishna visiting Islamabad on 15 July.
Reviving talks: A 27 April photo of foreign minister S.M. Krishna (right) with his Pakistani counterpart S.M. Qureshi at Saarc meet in Thimpu. Manish Swarup/AP
Chidambaram would visit Pakistan on 26 June to attend a meeting of home ministers of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) nations.
India had called off its dialogue with Pakistan after the terror attacks in Mumbai on November 2008; it said Pakistan should first act against the masterminds of the attack who, along with the perpetrators, were Pakistani.
On its part, Pakistan had insisted on unconditional talks, leading to a deadlock, which was broken in Thimpu.
“Let us hope that these talks will help in bringing our countries closer together and bringing between the two countries the cordiality we desire and let us hope that our efforts will be fruitful,” Krishna said after a 25-minute telephonic conversation with Qureshi.
Krishna told reporters that he and Qureshi would work out ways to carry forward the dialogue so that “outstanding issues could be discussed in an atmosphere of mutual trust”.
Talking to the media in Islamabad, Qureshi said the discussions in July would touch on a range of issues. “There are no quick fixes, but sincerity is there,” he said. “Don’t expect miracles overnight.”
Warning that some “elements” could try to disrupt the peace process, Qureshi said: “We will not allow acts of terrorism to impede the process. We should build it to a level that it becomes irreversible.”
Last month, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani met in Thimpu in Bhutan on the sidelines of the Saarc summit and agreed to move ahead with the peace process.
Thimpu was the first such meeting after Singh and Gilani met at Sharm-el-Sheikh in Egypt on 16 July, when a joint statement triggered a major controversy in India as it de-linked peace talks from terrorism.
“Pakistan is trying to divert the attention from the issue of terrorism and focus on Kashmir and water issues. Are you going to fall into that trap?” said G. Parthasarathy, a former Indian high commissioner to Pakistan. “But the home minister’s visit ahead of the talks indicates that India would get a clear view to decide on how to go ahead.”
The main Opposition the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was sceptical about the latest development and asked the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government to reveal details about the proposed dialogue.
“The accelerated pace of discussion needs more explanation from the government,” party spokesman Prakash Javadekar said. “The basis of the dialogue needs to be clarified.”
Santosh K. Joy in New Delhi and PTI contributed to this story.