India, Pakistan move on from Mumbai despite terror shadow

By Minu Jain, IANS,

Sharm-el-Sheikh (Egypt) : India and Pakistan Thursday appeared set to resume their dialogue halted by the horrific Mumbai attack eight months ago, but Prime Minister Manmohan Singh insisted this would be linked to Islamabad curbing terrorist activities on its soil.

Support TwoCircles

“Dekhiye, dialogue ke siway koi chara nahin hai (There is no alternative to dialogue),” Manmohan Singh told journalists after nearly three hours of talks with his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani on the sidelights of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in this Egyptian town.

The two prime ministers met for an hour without aides at the luxurious Maritim Jolie Ville resort, before they were joined by their officials for another two hours of exhaustive discussions.

The Indian leader, however, said the structure of the proposed dialogue was not known. He added that foreign secretaries of the two countries will meet soon.

New Delhi angrily suspended the composite dialogue process with Islamabad after heavily armed terrorists from Pakistan sneaked into Mumbai late last year and massacred over 170 people including foreigners.

The universally condemned savagery caused serious ruptures in relations between India and Pakistan which the leaders of the two countries are now trying to put back on the track.

Explaining what he discussed with Gilani, Manmohan Singh said: “We were quite clear that if acts of terrorism continue to be perpetrated, there is no question of any dialogue, let alone composite dialogue.

“If there is no attempt to contain terror, no dialogue can take place,” Manmohan Singh added, indicating that India would not be averse to talking to Pakistan.

Manmohan Singh warned that there should be no more Mumbai. Otherwise, it would lead to “intolerable” situations. To this, Gilani replied: “You test us. We will work with India to prevent such things from happening again.”

Manmohan Singh, born in present day Pakistan, said that India-Pakistan relations had been subject to too many accidents.

“We have begun the process… How successful we are in achieving that only time can tell… We have an obligation to engage Pakistan.”

In separate comments, Gilani claimed diplomatic victory for Pakistan following his meeting with Manmohan Singh, saying India had conceded many of Islamabad’s points.

A joint statement issued after the Manmohan-Gilani meeting said: “Both prime ministers recognized that dialogue is the only way forward. Action on terrorism should not be linked to the composite dialogue process and these should not be bracketed.”

India had earlier stated that it wants credible action from Pakistan to bring the masterminds of the Mumbai attack to justice and to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism on Pakistani soil.

“Both leaders agreed that the two countries will share real time credible and actionable information on any future terrorist threats,” it stated.

According to the statement, Gilani told Manmohan Singh that Pakistan would do everything to satisfy India’s concerns over terrorism.

“Both leaders agreed that terrorism is the main threat to both countries. Both countries affirmed their resolve to fight terrorism and to cooperate with each other to this end,” the document stated.

Interestingly, while Jammu and Kashmir, their main source of tension, was not mentioned in the one-page statement, Balochistan was. “Gilani mentioned that Pakistan has some information on threats in Balochistan and other areas.”

Despite the presence of several world leaders in Egypt, the India-Pakistan dialogue caught a lot of media attention.

When Gilani, who had called on the Indian leader, emerged from the meeting, all hell broke lose as camerapersons and journalists jostled with each other to get close to him.

Surrounded by a tight ring of security, Gilani looked quite taken aback at the aggression of the media.

Manmohan Singh’s press adviser Harish Khare was caught in a similar melee when he climbed down the stairs with a sheaf of joint statement copies. Journalists tried to snatch copies from his hand, and some who happened to be close to him even got their clothes pulled as the crowds pushed and shoved.