India to Pakistan: Ready to discuss all issues, step-by-step

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

NEW DELHI - Ahead of talks in Thimphu next month, India Wednesday allayed Pakistan’s apprehensions saying it was ready to discuss all issues with Islamabad, but advocated a “step-by-step” approach to bridge the trust deficit to carry forward the engagement process.

“There might be some apprehensions in Pakistan that India is not willing to discuss all outstanding issues, but I want to say that India is willing to discuss all the issues that make our relationship very difficult and strain our relationship,” External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said in an interaction with visiting Pakistani journalists.

“The biggest problem between the two countries from being good neighbours is trust deficit. That’s why these meetings between the prime ministers, foreign ministers and foreign secretaries of the two nations,” Krishna said.

Krishna was responding to questions on why India was not willing to discuss all the outstanding issues between the two nations during the proposed visit of Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi to India later this year.

Krishna, however, stressed that as there were issues between the two sides for the last 62 years, these could not be resolved in just one sitting or meeting between the foreign ministers or even the prime ministers.

“That is exactly why I took up the matter when I met Foreign Minister Qureshi, telling him that a step-by-step, graduated, forward-looking approach needs to be taken to discuss the issues,” he added.

Krishna’s comments came ahead of the meeting between the foreign secretaries of the two countries on the sidelines of the Standing Committee meeting of the SAARC in Thimphu Feb 6-8.

The meeting could set the stage for a meeting between Krishna and his Pakistani counterpart Qureshi in Thimphu and a subsequent visit by Qureshi to Delhi.

Krishna added he was looking forward to a fruitful visit of Qureshi to New Delhi soon. The two sides are yet to finalise a date for Qureshi’s trip to India.

Referring to repeated assurance by Pakistan that it will not allow its soil to be used by forces hostile to New Delhi, Krishna conveyed through the visiting journalists that Islamabad must follow this assurance in letter and spirit.

He said India being a democracy, its government had to consider the public opinion and their sensibilities on the outrage in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks and the loss of lives, both domestic and foreign.

Taking a long-range view of the relationship, Krishna stressed that the two countries should “push some of the differences we have to the back-burner” to concentrate on developmental agenda.

“India and Pakistan have to put some of their differences on the back burner and concentrate on addressing the development challenges facing the two nations. For that, trust is needed and we have to put in place mechanisms to build trust,” he said in his hour-long meeting.

A group of 13 senior journalists from newspapers, news channels and magazines of Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi, viasiting India, attended the meeting.

“Let me make it abundantly clear…India desires a peaceful and friendly relation with Pakistan. This will enable both the countries to effectively address development challenges we face. For that, the basic need is that our mindset, which is often adversarial, has to be changed,” he said.

“We need to look at things in a positive manner. Our relationship has so many potentials, only if we come out of that mindset. Let me assure you, India has come out of it,” he added.

Alluding to his talks with Qureshi in Islamabad in July last year that ended in mutual recriminations, Krishna said: “Though the media thinks so, I am fully satisfied with the trip as I largely met the purposes of the meeting.”

“India has placed on the table its core issue of terrorism and how terrorism has inflicted substantial damage to our relationship. Dialogue was initiated in 2004, but the terror attack on Mumbai happened unprovoked. That put the clock back,” he said.

Filed under: Diplomacy

will not be displayed