NEW DELHI: The incorrigible naysayers were isolated and the maligned idealists were rewarded by India and Pakistan whose foreign secretaries set the stage on Thursday for a political engagement between the two countries — despite the never ending hiccups — to consolidate the gains of their revived dialogue.
Among important decisions arrived at between India’s Ranjan Mathai and Pakistan’s Jalil Abbas Jilani after a comprehensive review of the entire gamut of relations over two days of delegation-level talks is a proposed September visit to Islamabad by Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna.
Couched in the stack of nuanced paragraphs of a joint statement was also an earnest appeal to media on both sides to end their mutually hostile propaganda. A joint statement and a joint press conference reflected heightened trust and confidence between the two officials.
However, the near obsessive media focus on terrorism to the exclusion of what might be happening in turbulent Kashmir, or in the daily tragedies of the routinely imprisoned fishermen and for that matter what goes on a daily basis in the minds of men handling nuclear tipped missiles probably prompted the two to seek greater exchanges between journalists.
Mr Mathai opened the press conference. He said the discussions covered peace and security, including confidence-building measures, Jammu and Kashmir and the promotion of friendly exchanges. “We have also taken stock of the current state of our bilateral relations and reviewed progress in the various secretary-level meetings held on different issues in the second round of our resumed dialogue.”
While they might not agree on all issues, they did agree that relations between the two countries had to be normalised, Mr Mathai said.
“There is a determination on both sides to take forward our dialogue with an open mind and a constructive spirit.”
On Jammu and Kashmir they agreed to continue discussions in a purposeful and forward looking manner with a view to finding a peaceful solution “by narrowing divergences and building convergences.”
This is perhaps where Mr Krishna will step in with his Pakistani counterpart.
Before he was bombarded with their pet topic by the Indian media, Mr Jilani too was sanguine about the future. “Pakistan seeks friendly, cooperative and good neighbourly relations with India. We must make sincere and serious efforts towards building mutual trust applying political will in resolving all outstanding issues through peaceful means, and continue to work for promotion of peace, harmony and cooperation.”
Asked about the arrest of Abu Jundal and the Indian home ministry’s allegations about Pakistan’s officials being involved in the Mumbai carnage, Mr Mathai offered a measured reply.
He emphasised that terrorism was the biggest threat to peace and security in the region, and that bringing the guilty to justice in the Mumbai terror attacks would be the biggest confidence-building measure of all. The arrest and the ongoing interrogation of Abu Jundal has now added urgency to this matter.
He took up the issue with Foreign Secretary Jilani and shared information with him. “As you are aware, the investigation is under way and we will continue to pursue this matter with determination to its logical conclusion. The Home Minister, as you are also aware, has already addressed this issue.
“Mr Jilani was asked to speak in Urdu. He said terror was lethal for both countries. He stressed that his government took the challenge very seriously. He denied the charge of any state agency’s involvement in the Mumbai terror attack and urged India to work for a joint probe into the affair.
“I assured him that the entire evidence, whatever evidence that India has, should be shared with us, and we will investigate this matter.
We will even be willing to offer joint investigation into the whole affair,” Pakistan’s foreign secretary said.
“Our home ministry and the interior ministry…should meet more often. The respective agencies should meet more often and enter into a comprehensive cooperation in order to defeat the forces of terrorism,” Mr Jilani said.