NEW DELHI: India’s Congress party president Sonia Gandhi offered hopes for a revitalised peace process with Pakistan on Friday but told her colleagues at a two-day brainstorming session in Jaipur that any future dialogue must be based on civilised behaviour.
In comments that matched with the party’s position, likely to be reflected in a Jaipur resolution on a gamut of national issues expected to be released on Saturday, Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid told a TV channel that the government would respond positively to Pakistan’s appeal to keep the dialogue on.
The latest Pakistani appeal came from High Commissioner Salman Bashir in New Delhi on Thursday. The Pakistan envoy urged New Delhi in a TV interview to accept his country’s offer for talks at the foreign minister level to defuse tension over repeated ceasefire violations along the LoC in Kashmir. He said there was a need “to bring back normalcy. I believe it is in mutual interest of both the nations to use the offer made by Pakistan’s
Foreign Minister (Hina Rabbani Khar) to deal with the present state of affairs.”
Ms Gandhi reminded her audience that India’s place in the comity of nations was spurred by its strengths at home. She called for improved economic performance, and also spoke of the need to deepen secularism and democracy to more firmly secure India’s presence on the high table of global affairs.
“Better and closer relations with our immediate neighbours will not only make for regional peace, they will also have a positive impact on some of our own border states,” she said. “However, let us be very clear our dialogue must be based on accepted principle of civilised behaviour. We will never compromise on our vigil and preparedness to deal with terrorism and threats on our borders.”
Mr Khurshid told NDTV that India would not let the recent tension along the Line of Control upset the peace process with Pakistan and that the government would “respond positively” to what Pakistan High Commissioner had said.
“The peace process has been something in which a lot of time has been invested and we won’t let these incidents that have happened recently affect it,” he said.
He was responding to Mr Bashir’s statement that dialogue was the only way forward to ease the tension between the two countries over the killing of two Indian soldiers near the Line of Control.
The High Commissioner spoke in an interview after Ms Khar’s offer to talk to her Indian counterpart got what seemed like a lukewarm response in India. New Delhi has not yet formally responded to Islamabad’s offer for talks, made by Ms Khar in a statement on Wednesday night, only a day after she had accused India of “warmongering”.
On Thursday, Mr Khurshid had said that that the government would not take any decision in haste. “These are things which you should analyse, reflect on and take a decision. When we take a decision, we will let you know.
Let’s just take things a step at a time. We have been through difficult moments. The government will take everything into account. The PM has given a clear indication that we will move step by step. Let’s see what is necessary to do and say, there’s no hurry,” he told reporters.
The foreign minister had also briefed the cabinet on Pakistan’s offer, reportedly saying that sustained pressure from India had made the neighbour shift its stance from trying to internationalise the issue to seeking bilateral dialogue.
Islamabad had earlier suggested a United Nations investigation into the killing of two Indian soldiers and mutilation of their bodies along the Line of Control last week. India had rejected that suggestion.
He also reportedly pointed out that Pakistan had only spoken through the media so far and India would decide on any dialogue only after a formal offer from Pakistan’s diplomatic channels.
Local reports said that while India favours engagement, it was unlikely to agree to holding talks at the level of ministers any time soon. The reports pointed out that Prime Minister Singh had made it clear to Pakistan that it “cannot be business as usual” till those who mutilated the bodies of Indian soldiers killed in Pakistani firing, beheading one of them, are brought to book.