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ANALYSIS: India-Pak moving forward, step-by-step

Last updated on: June 25, 2011 01:20 IST

India and Pakistan met again to decrease the huge trust deficit. There was no breakthrough as expected, but, it was not a bad news because both sides are talking, and talking a lot, says Sheela Bhatt, while reporting from Islamabad.

"The ideology of military conflict should have no place in the paradigm of our relationship of the 21st century. Instead, this relationship should be characterised by the  vocabulary of peace, all round co-operation in the interest of our people, growing trade and economic interaction, as well as, people to people contacts – and all this, let me emphasise, in an atmosphere free of terror and violence."

This is how Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao summed up India's vision behind ongoing talks between India and Pakistan. Rao conducted talks with her counterpart Salman Bashir for over six hours, spread over three sessions over the last two days in Islamabad.

Official sources said there was no cussedness between two sides and the chemistry was excellent.Before leaving for Washington, this was her last important diplomatic assignment that went as per the script.

The government sources, while speaking about Pakistan's readiness to bring in substantial proposal for a change, said, "We are resuming the dialogue. Now, they have to assess their own internal political dynamics. Diplomacy works in context of reality only."

It was evident at every step that India and Pakistan both took care and observed caution to see that the peace process doesn't get derailed.

The importance India attaches to continue talking to Pakistan was highlighted in the range of issues discussed across the table. The most important talk was about the issue that was uppermost on mind of India.

How is Pakistan securing its nuclear plants and what kind of measures are being taken so that nuclear weapons do not fall into hands of militants?

According to official sources, the Indian side informed Pakistan that India is improving the safety of its nuclear plants and weapons by forming a nuclear regulatory authority.  India told Pakistan that, as its happening world over, the security of the nuclear plants is "national responsibility."

India and Pakistan held more than two hours of talk on Jammu and Kashmir. The J&K issue has now got an official Working Group to discuss Confidence Building Measures.

Bashir reminded that both sides have "stated position" on J&K. The joint statement issued after the meeting said that both sides agreed to convene a meeting of the Working Group on Cross-Line of Control CBMs to recommend measures for strengthening and streamlining the existing trade and travel arrangements across the LoC and propose modalities for introducing additional Cross-LoC CBMs.

The Working Group will meet in July 2011.

Also, both sides "noted with satisfaction the progress made towards finalisation of the Visa Agreement which will help liberalise the visa regime and facilitate people-to- people, business-to-business and sports contacts."

Both sides also discussed new ideas about their coastal securities and also, significantly, how to prevent conflicting situation at sea. In fact, Indian sources said there was readiness to listen on side of Pakistan.

The senior source in government said, 'There was no tit-for-tat. The language we used was such that we were able to put across our views in "reasoned way." The Pakistan side in fact asked India to revive the Lahore agreement of 2007.

Both secretaries would meet again next month in New Delhi.

Before the meet started, no substantial breakthrough was expected because a foreign minister-level meeting is expected soon and also, the prime minister-level meet may be possible in Male, Maldives, in November, on sidelines of South Asian Association For Regional Cooperation.

So, it was heartening to note that both sides resisted from scoring points or giving spins to the event, and that itself was an achievement in view of assembly elections in Pakistan  occupied Kashmir, and sensitivity in India over the slow progress made by Pakistan over26/11.

India also talked about David Headley's statements during the Tahawwur Rana trial and the links between terror groups such as Lashkar-eTayiba and the Inter-Services Intelligence. Basheer said that Pakistan understands India's concerns on terror but he hoped that there would be "a collaborative approach."

India also told Pakistan that there is infiltration on the LoC, but it has reduced on the international boundary.

India tried to raise the level of confidence by saying that there is no scope for military conflict now. Pakistan said there is sense of proportion when it's talking to India.

You name it and they talked about it. The issue of Jammu and Kashmir, progress on prosecuting the accused of 26/11, the nuclear safety and security issue. They even mulled over how to have co-operation in preserving the legacy of great poets Iqbal, Faiz and Amir Khushrow.

Both diplomats even talked if it's good idea to promote cricket matches between the women teams from both sides and they even asked each other if it's possible to launch an India-Pakistan Women Forum.

The official sources said "We are moving ahead step by step and inch by inch."

Rao expressed concerns about terrorism and the pending issues related to the 26/11 and Pakistan asked what's happening to the case of the blast on Samjuata express. But, the official sources said that one should not fall into trap of pitting the terrorism of 26/11 against the terror blasts on Samjuata express.

"We are not condoning the incident of Samjauta where human lives were lost. India is not afraid of standing up and condemning it. The 26/11 attack is of gross proportion."

The Indian side has told Pakistan that once the investigation in Samjauta blasts is completed, they will brief Pakistan about it, while Pakistan has told India that there are legal glitches and issues about the cases related to 26/11 in the Pakistani courts.

The government source said, "Some cynics ask what difference such talks make? I think it does make the difference." The source went as far as to claim that, "The meeting was one of confidence that said that we( India-Pakistan) can face the world together!"

Image: Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir leave after a joint news conference at the foreign ministry in Islamabad

Photographs: Faisal Mahmood/Reuters

Sheela Bhatt in Islamabad