India, Pakistan need to put aside differences: Krishna


New Delhi: External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna Wednesday said India and Pakistan should put some of their differences on the back burner for a while to focus on development challenges and change the adversarial mindset so that all issues pending between them could be discussed.

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Interacting with a group of Pakistani journalists on an eight-day visit to India, Krishna said terrorism of the 26/11-variety had inflicted substantial damage to India-Pakistan relations and set the clock back for the dialogue process initiated in 2004.

“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 visiting senior journalists from newspapers, news channels and magazines in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi attende the meeting.

“Let me make it abundantly clear…India desires peaceful and friendly relations 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.

Krishna, however, noted that India was not shying away from discussing any issues between the neighbours and that can happen only if the trust deficit, which was the biggest impediment, was reduced.

“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,” he said.

“India is willing to discuss all issues that confront us and that cause the trust deficit and strain in our relations,” he added.

“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.

Noting that India was repeatedly assured by Pakistan that it will not allow its soil to be used by forces hostile to New Delhi, Krishna said, “We thought this assurance will be followed in letter and spirit. But then Mumbai happened.”

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

On the possible visit of Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in the first quarter of this year on a reciprocal basis, Krishna said he was looking forward for a fruitful visit of his counterpart to New Delhi soon. The two sides are yet to finalise a date for Qureshi’s trip to India.

Krishna has met Qureshi in July 2009 in Islamabad, but the meeting was viewed by the media as a failure.

“Though the media thinks so, I am fully satisfied with the visit as I largely met the purpose of the meeting,” he said.