Saturday, June 15, 2024

PMs meet


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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousaf Gillani met in Maldives and their talks seemingly opened a new chapter in the relations between the two countries. The meeting was low on deliverables but was intended to convey a strong desire to stay engaged and push for normalisation of relations between the two countries soured by the 26/11 terrorist attack in Mumbai in 2009. The two leaders jointly addressed the media. Their statements took in such prickly issues as Kashmir, terror, Sir Creek, water and trade. Singh described Gillani as a man of peace. India stresses punishment of the 26/11 offenders. But it said terror should not spoil improvement in relations. Islamabad has assured that the culprits would be brought to justice. Preferential trade agreement leading to zero customs duty on all traded goods by 2016 has been given a thrust forward. Singh said that the era of Indo-Pak blame game should end.

The goals to be kept in mind are revival of the Joint Commission, a liberal visa regime, speeding up of cross-border trade and finalisation of CBMs. Commerce Secretaries of the two countries will meet on November 14. Water Secretaries should also meet soon. All this is fine. But Pakistan has been dragging its feet on surrendering the terrorists who caused the Mumbai tragedy in 2009. That throws doubt on its sincerity. It is also said to be harbouring the Haqqanis who attacked the Indian embassy in Kabul a few years ago. What is encouraging is that the US has been proactive in taming Islamabad’s militancy against India. That may promote amicable relations between India and Pakistan more than glib phrases exchanged between the Prime Ministers of the two countries.

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