Addu Atoll (Maldives): Seeking to put past acrimony behind, India and Pakistan Thursday
talked about writing "a new chapter" in their tense ties, with
Islamabad assuring New Delhi that the terrorists behind the Mumbai
carnage will be brought to justice soon.
Marking a forward movement in their ties that have languished
since 26/11 attacks nearly three years ago, the two sided agreed
to push a host of initiatives, including the revival of the joint
commission, a preferential trade agreement and liberal visa
India conveyed to Pakistan the imperative need to punish
perpetrators of 26/11 carnage, that dipped ties between the
neighbours, and underlined that terror should not be allowed to
spoil improving relations between them.
Pakistan on its part promised to conclude the trial of the Mumbai
terror accused in its custody and declared that Ajmal Kasab, the
lone surviving 26/11 terrorist, should be hanged.
In a sign of the new spirit of mutual accommodation and positive
progress in dialogue, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his
Pakistani counterpart Yousaf Raza Gilani vowed to open a new
chapter in ties and hoped the next round of talks will be "more
productive and constructive."
Meeting on the sidelines of the 17th South Asian Association for
Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit here, the two leaders held
delegation-level talks for around half an hour in a seaside beach
cottage at the idyllic Shangri La resort hotel and followed it up
with nearly 45 minutes of one-on-one talks.
Coming out after their meeting, the two smiled and made brief
statements before the media in which they virtually echoed each
other in their desire to start a new phase in relations.
Describing Gilani as "man of peace," Manmohan Singh said that the
dialogue process, which the two countries resumed early this year,
have yielded positive results, but stressed that "more needs to be
"We will review the dialogue with the expectation that all the
issues which have bedevilled the relations will be discussed with
all the sincerity the two sides can bring to the table," Manmohan
Singh said. "We have wasted a lot of time in acrimonious debate in
the past. The time has come to write a new chapter in relations
between India and Pakistan," he said.
He said the next round of talks "should be far more productive and
result-oriented and bring the two countries closer to each other."
Gilani, too, struck an upbeat note. "We had a good meeting. I hope
the next round of talks will be more constructive and open a new
chapter in relations between the two countries."
"We openly discussed all issues, including core issues related to
water, terror, Sir Creek and Siachen," Gilani said.
Briefing reporters after the talks, Foreign Secretary Ranjan
Mathai stressed that the talks signaled an end to the period of
"accusations and counter-accusations" and stressed on key
initiatives that emerged from the talks.
"The joint commission, which have not met since 2005, will be
revived," he said.
Building on positive momentum generated by Pakistan granting India
Most Favoured Nation status, Mathai said the two countries are now
planning to move towards a preferential trade agreement that is
set to give a substantial boost to trade between the two
The liberalized visa regime should be signed at the earliest,
Mathai said, adding that the two sides also decided to fast-track
implementation of cross-border trade and confidence-building
measures that were finalized during talks between the foreign
ministers of the two countries in July.
The feel-good factor in bilateral relations was more than visible,
but with justice still elusive for 26/11 victims nearly three
years after the carnage that froze their peace process, India made
it clear that relations can thrive only in a atmosphere free from
terror and enmity.
"Terrorism is a perennial concern. We have an obligation to ensure
that it does not spoil relations between the two countries,"
Mathai told reporters about the message Manmohan conveyed to
Gilani during their talks.
Manmohan Singh told Gilani that "it is imperative to bring the
perpetrators of 26/11 attacks to justice", said Mathai.
The Pakistani side promised to bring the trial of the seven
terrorists who perpetrated Mumbai terror to conclusion and pointed
that the judicial commission which will be visiting India soon
will positively impact the judicial process of bringing 26/11
perpetrators to justice. In a surprisingly blunt assertion,
Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik declared that Ajmal
Kasab is a non-state actor, a convicted terrorist and should be
sent to the gallows.
"Kasab is a terrorist, a non-state actor who should go to gallows
and his accomplices too. So should perpetrators of the Samjhauta
Express blast," said Malik. Mathai said that India will respond
soon on the dates of the proposed visit of the judicial
The commission is expected to record the statements of Mumbai
Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate R.V. Sawant Waghule and
investigating officer Ramesh Mahale, who had recorded the
confessional statement of Kasab, convicted of the terror attack.
(Manish Chand can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)