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India-Pakistan diplomacy avoids media trap

Wednesday July 27, 2011 07:56:44 PM, Manish Chand, IANS

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New Delhi: No rhetorical fireworks on Kashmir or 26/11 terror! Grandstanding is out; a new shared feeling of bonhomie and feel-good diplomacy has subtly crept in the India-Pakistan engagement as the foreign ministers and foreign secretaries of the two countries Wednesday consciously refrained from making any provocative statements.

In a leap of faith, or compelled by circumstances, as cynics would say, both sides struck positive notes and hinted at the possibility of "a new chapter" opening in post 26/11 bilateral ties, based on taking gradual, incremental steps to reduce trust deficit and to insulate this accident-prone relationship from cynics and a sensation-seeking media.

The decision to avoid rhetoric was taken in view of the July 15 talks in Islamabad last year when aggressive posturing by Pakistan's then foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi at a joint press conference with Krishna in Islamabad led to the collapse of the talks, said an official.

After wrapping over two-hour talks with her Indian counterpart S.M. Krishna, the 34-year-old Hina Rabbani Khar, Pakistan's youngest and first woman foreign minister, spoke about a new era in bilateral ties.

"This is indeed a new era of bilateral cooperation between the two countries and it is our desire and I believe after having spoken to you (Krishna), that it is the desire and commitment of both the governments to make it an uninterrupted and an uninterpretable process," Khar told reporters here.

"A new generation of India and Pakistan will see a relationship which is going to be much different then the one we experienced in the last few decades"" Khar said.

Krishna, too, struck a positive tone, saying the revived peace process is on""on the right track" and hoped for a "friendly and cooperative relationship."

The sense of mutual restraint came out strongly in the joint press conference Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao addressed with her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir.

An assertive media did hurl some provocative questions at two top diplomats on Kashmir, Samjhauta blasts and justice for 26/11 terror, but they did not rise to the bait, eschewing the temptation to play into the hands of the media.

In fact, Rao admitted that both sides discussed at Wednesday's talks "the avoidance of rhetoric and statements that are not conducive to the reduction of trust" and spoke about "the spirit of Thimphu" where the prime ministers of the two countries mandated their foreign ministers to lessen the distrust and chart the way forward.

Bashir, who outraged many in India last year when he dismissed the evidence given by India linking Pakistani terrorists to 26/11 as""literature," was a model of diplomatic restraint.

When told by a journalist that Pakistan has done virtually nothing to bring the perpetrators of 26/11 Mumbai terror to justice, he said in a philosophical vein not to be impatient.

Surprisingly, when asked about Khar's meeting with Hurriyat separatists here Tuesday, Bashir only said it's "a democratic polity and they were just trying to reach out"

"Please do not read too much into it," he pleaded. Rao resisted the temptation to talk tough, saying India has expressed concerns over the event and the two sides did not agree on every thing.

(Manish Chand can be contacted at 







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