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'PM wants to give Sharif a chance, didn't complain to Obama'

September 30, 2013 12:02 IST

PM wants to give Sharif a chance, says Khurshid

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Ajay Kaul and Lalit K Jha

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who met Nawaz Sharif in New York despite strong criticism from opposition back home, wants to "trust" the new Pakistan prime minister and give him a chance to "walk the talk" on stopping ceasefire violations and terror activities against India.

Stating this, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid underlined that while "seeking to trust" Sharif, India will "verify" the actions on the ground before taking any step further on resuming the stalled dialogue process.

In an interview to PTI in New York, Khurshid said the "bacteria" of anti-India terrorism rooted in Pakistan must be eliminated whether "it is state-sponsored, state-controlled, state-mandated or state-encouraged" and should not be allowed to grow and destroy the "sapling" of "creative constructive relationship".

"Our prime minister wants to give him (Sharif) a chance, wants to trust him. But as he (Dr Singh) has said we have to verify," said Khurshid while defending the PM's meeting with Sharif despite the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party contending that it was not the right time as Pakistan was engaging in ceasefire violations.

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Image: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in a meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif in New York
Photographs: PIB

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'Eliminate bacteria of anti-India terrorism rooted in Pak'

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Ajay Kaul and Lalit K Jha

Noting that Sharif has taken over as the prime minister of Pakistan recently, he said there is a "reasonable element of hope that this discussion will not go waste and it will lead to some improvement and something concrete in the future."

At the hour-long meeting with Sharif on Sunday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, Dr Singh made it clear that ending ceasefire violations on the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir is a pre-condition for resumption of bilateral dialogue.

Khurshid, who was part of the Indian delegation, said Dr Singh had a "free, frank and friendly discussion" with Sharif and flagged every issue of concern, including the Mumbai attack, Jamaat-ud-Dawa and its chief Hafiz Saeed, and LoC firing during the meeting.

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Image: External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and National Security Advisor Shivshnakar Menon at the meeting between Dr Singh and Sharif
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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'While we trust Sharif, we must continue to verify'

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Ajay Kaul and Lalit K Jha

Rejecting BJP's opposition to the meeting, Khurshid said, "We owe it to our nation. Trust but verify. You can turn it (the statement) around. We can verify and then trust. Now, I think, what our prime minister has done is that he has kept verify and trust in parallel."

He said Dr Singh made it clear that "while we trust you (Sharif), we must continue to verify."

This is why, he said, "our PM has chosen among various alternatives that has been suggested by Pakistan. He has preferred his own view, which is -- now this should be done at the level of DGMO (directors general of military operations). And the good thing in Pakistan's acceptance."

He did not elaborate about the suggestions made by Pakistan but sources said they had wanted a committee of foreign secretaries to be set up to address LoC violations issue.

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Image: Pakistan PM Nawaz Sharif


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'Keep temperatures at right level for sapling of bilateral ties'

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Ajay Kaul and Lalit K Jha

Khurshid's attention was drawn to some positive statements made by Sharif about the relationship after taking over as prime minister in May and asked whether India wanted him to "walk the talk" on it.

"Absolutely. There is no question about it. He has to walk the talk. The real taste of the pudding is in eating," he replied.

Talking about the take-away from the meeting, he said it is to ensure that "temperatures" are kept at the "right level for the sapling of the bilateral relationship."

When asked about the fate of the dialogue process which is at a standstill in the wake of ceasefire violations by Pakistan and killing of Indian soldiers on the LoC, Khurshid said the talks were suspended "because of circumstances. It was not destroyed."

He said dialogue can be resumed only after "looking at how much success we can get on the ground in terms of peace and tranquility (on the LoC) and what reports we get from the DGMO."

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Image: The bilaternal meeting between India and Pakistan in New York
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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'Sharif has instructed interior ministry to speed up 26/11 trial'

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Ajay Kaul and Lalit K Jha

The external affairs minister highlighted that while the main dialogue was on at a "standstill", a "lot of other things" are continuing. These include talks over trade and water issues.

Khurshid said a mandate has been given to the DGMOs of the two countries to "come in much closer contact, spend some time together and uncover the reason of why this has happened, try to apportion responsibility and then try to find ways and means to ensure that this don't happen again."

He said there is complete commitment in terms of expression on both sides to preserve peace and tranquility and the ceasefire of 2003.

DGMOs, he said, are given the primary responsibility to look at past, present and future, come up with some specific recommendations and find mechanism to ensure peace and tranquility at the LOC is maintained.

When asked, Khurshid said, there is no timeframe for it, but noted that there was a sense of urgency. "They have in mind a clear idea that we are in the last phase of our government. If anything is to be achieved while we are still in the government, then they have to speed up things," he said.

According to Khurshid, Sharif said that he has instructed the interior ministry to speed up things with regard to the trial of the 26/11 terror attack. Sharif indicated that "we need to move forward" on this issue.

Responding to a question, Khurshid said the expectations from the meeting was toned down given that the meeting was just for an hour and not much was expected out of it.

On Hafeez Saeed, the mastermind of the Mumbai terrorist attack, Sharif said now that they have more evidence against him, these evidences can be brought to the court. "And that evidence will then have implications for whoever you think is involved in Mumbai. He said that of course courts have to function independent of the government, but now that you have more evidence because of judicial commission's cross examination now evidence can be utilised," Khurshid said.

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Image: The Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai under attack on November 26, 2008


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'PM did not complain to Obama about Pak'

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Ajay Kaul and Lalit K Jha

Dr Singh told United States President Barack Obama about cross border terrorism to let him know "his true feelings" and concerns and it was not in the form of a complaint, Khurshid said.

"No, No. It was not a complaint. I do not think, we should see this as a complaint," Khurshid told PTI in an interview when asked about news reports in Pakistani media that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was not pleased about Dr Singh taking up the issue of Pakistan with Obama.

"We should understand this in a context. They (Obama and Dr Singh) are good friend. They wanted to be open and wanted to share with each other. And the prime minister does not hold back as far as Obama is concerned," the minister said.

"I think he has a comfort level with Obama. And he just let him know his true feelings. I do not think it was in the form of a complaint. I do not think it was in the form of showing Nawaz Sharif down or Pakistan down," he said.


Image: US President Barack Obama welcomes Dr Singh to the White House
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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