By Anwar Iqbal and Masood Haider
Monday, 28 Sep, 2009(Source Dawn)
NEW YORK: The blasts that rocked Mumbai in November last year also destroyed the possibility of the resumption of a composite dialogue between South Asia’s two nuclear neighbours, India and Pakistan.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and his Indian counterpart S.M. Krishna (APP)
After extensive, two-hour talks at New York’s Palace Hotel, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and his Indian counterpart S.M. Krishna admitted that the two sides failed to fix a date for the resumption of dialogue suspended after the Mumbai attacks.
‘They understood our position and did not insist on fixing a date,’ said the Indian foreign minister.
He told a briefing after the talks that India also had rejected a Pakistani proposal for the back-channel diplomacy while the two sides await the resumption of dialogue.
‘When we have a front channel, there’s no need for a back channel,’ he said.
Positive and frank
Yet, both sides insisted that the talks they held in New York this weekend were ‘positive, frank and useful’.
Pakistan had already announced its intention to appoint former Foreign Secretary Riaz Mohammed Khan as its special envoy for the proposed back-channel talks.
The Indian foreign minister told the briefing that the Pakistani delegation also did not raise the issue of Balochistan, despite Islamabad’s claim that India was stirring troubles in the restive province.
‘Yes, the issue of Balochistan did not come up,’ confirmed Mr Qureshi.
The Indian minister played down his talks with the Pakistani delegation, which followed a three-hour meeting between their foreign secretaries on Saturday. At his briefing, he read out a long statement that covered his engagements in New York, both in and outside the UN General Assembly. The reference to India-Pakistan talks followed his meetings with delegations from Maldives and Nepal.
The Indian foreign minister, however, described his talks with the Pakistani delegation as ‘constructive and useful’, adding that both sides agreed to work for ‘deeper, sustained, meaningful and mutually beneficial relations in the long-term interest of each other’.
Mr Qureshi described the talks as ‘very constructive, positive and frank’.
But he was taken aback when a reporter informed him that the Indian foreign minister had told journalists that India did not want back-channel diplomacy.
‘If they want a front channel, we are more than happy to do so,’ said Mr Qureshi while explaining that Pakistan had put forth this proposal to help overcome India’s reluctance to engage in open talks with Islamabad.
The Indian minister chewed no words in informing the media that India would want more ‘concrete’ actions against the Mumbai terror suspects before agreeing to resume the dialogue.
He said that Pakistan had agreed to try seven or eight suspects. ‘But there are not just seven or eight individuals.
There are other groups involved as well,’ he said, adding that India would monitor the trial to see how Pakistan fulfilled its pledge to punish the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks.
Foreign Minister Qureshi, at a separate briefing at the Roosevelt Hotel, first said that there’s no need to monitor the trial but when informed that India wanted to do so, he said: ‘They don’t have to but if they are welcome to do so if they want.’
Mr Qureshi said that Pakistan wanted to catch and punish the culprits whether India agreed to resume the dialogue or not. The two briefings also made it obvious that if there’s one person who is preventing the India-Pakistan dialogue, it’s Hafiz Saeed.
The Indian minister demanded a firmer action against the LeT chief while the Pakistani minister said: ‘Hafiz Saeed or any other person, we want to move ahead. If we can get leads, we will move ahead.’
Mr Qureshi said he also raised the issue of Kashmir while the Indian minister did not mention the issue.
Agencies add: Both the foreign ministers smiled as they shook hands at the start of the meeting.
‘I am shaking hand and I’m shaking it very firmly,’ Mr Qureshi said.
Mr Krishna and Mr Qureshi held a 100-minute meeting in a fresh attempt to improve ties soured by last year’s militant attack in Mumbai.
Sunday’s was the fourth bilateral meeting between India and Pakistan on the sidelines of international gatherings since June. But the thaw has been undermined by political opposition in India.