Editorial : Mohali ‘summit’ - Thursday 31st March 2011

Source : http://www.dawn.com/2011/03/31/mohali-summit.html

THAT the two prime ministers met at Mohali on Wednesday in an environment enlivened by what by any standards was a carnival is itself an achievement. Their second meeting since February in Thimphu, this get-together should serve to help revive the ‘composite dialogue’ so rudely shattered by the Mumbai episode. A breakthrough was never expected, and nobody seemed to share the misplaced optimism generated by some TV channels on both sides. Nevertheless, we can detect a modest diplomatic gain: an invitation was sent by India, and Pakistan accepted it, the grace being mutual. This should be a matter of satisfaction seen against the background of the mistrust that has characterised India-Pakistan ties for six decades. More significantly, the Mohali meeting is a clear indication of the two prime ministers’ resolve to pursue the peace process despite the hurdles in the way, not the least of which is the opposition from the hawks in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s cabinet to a soft line towards Pakistan, and his weakened position because of the corruption scandals now rocking Indian politics. The interior secretaries’ accord in New Delhi must have gladdened the two chief executives, because they agreed to set up a ‘terror hotline’, coupled with the declaration in the joint statement that they will “remain engaged on outstanding issues”.
Last July’s talks in Islamabad were an unmitigated disaster, for the two foreign ministers achieved nothing, with the then foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi blaming the Indians for coming unprepared. But, as irony would have it, the same G.K. Pillai whose haste in blaming Pakistan for the Mumbai crime while the talks were going on was criticised by his foreign minister acted with greater wisdom and clinched on Tuesday with Qamar Zaman Chaudhry, his Pakistani counterpart, a deal on many thorny issues, including a pledge to share information on Mumbai and the Samjhota Express. Both sides also agreed on visits by Pakistani and Indian delegations in connection with the Mumbai probe, and there was a marked understanding on what is a perennial problem — fishermen’s arrest and ‘inadvertent crossers’. It has not yet been decided when the interior ministers will meet. This obviously means that a meeting between the foreign ministers and a visit by the Indian prime minister belong to a distant and — given their accident-prone relationship — hazy future.
Nevertheless, Prime Minister Gilani’s visit to Mohali and the interior secretaries’ work constitute a step forward, especially because the joint statement makes it clear that both Islamabad and New Delhi regard terrorism as a common enemy. There is still a long way to go, however. The deep mistrust remains, and may not go away unless the two sides also agree on the definition of terrorism.

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