Decks cleared for Nawaz-Singh meeting

Sep 04, 2013

By Kamran Yousaf

Pakistan and India on Tuesday laid to rest doubts about the fate of a planned meeting between their prime ministers, with officials confirming that Nawaz Sharif and Manmohan Singh will meet on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York later this month, The Express Tribune has learnt.

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Fierce skirmishes triggered by the August 6 killing of five Indian troops in an ambush strained relations between the two neighbours. In the wake of soaring tensions, several opposition leaders in India demanded that New Delhi call off the New York rendezvous.

Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan Dr T C A Raghavan on Tuesday met Prime Minister’s Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz to discuss the agenda of Nawaz-Singh meeting, sources added. This will be the first high-level interaction between the two nations since the change of government in Islamabad.

Interestingly, only two days earlier India’s External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said that they would take a decision on the Singh-Nawaz meeting after assessing the steps Pakistan takes to address India’s concerns on recent ‘unacceptable’ incidents.

“We are adopting a wait-and-watch approach and want Pakistan’s civilian government to take responsibility for what has happened [on August 6] and find a methodology to address it to our satisfaction,” he told reporters in Delhi as reported by The Indian Express newspaper.

Sources in Islamabad disclosed that backdoor diplomacy broke the ice between the two sides. They added that Aziz informed Raghavan that the PML-N government sincerely wanted to de-escalate ongoing tensions with India. He added that the two countries must explore all opportunities to lower tensions.

According to a statement issued by the foreign ministry, Aziz stressed the importance of resuming a stalled dialogue process.

Aziz said the impending meeting of both the prime ministers would be a step towards improving relations. “This is an effective way to clarify confusions.”

Reiterating Premier Nawaz’s commitment for normalising relations with India, Aziz said there had been great hope within the government of picking up the threads from the Lahore Declaration of 1999 and embark upon a new phase of Pakistan-India relations.

The tension along the Line of Control (LoC) seemed to have derailed this process which was unfortunate, he added. He believed that the Indian media’s over-reaction to the LoC incident had also not helped. He felt that both sides had to show maturity and move forward in a positive manner to resolve outstanding issues and put in place a sustainable dialogue process.

The Indian envoy also viewed the LoC incident as a ‘setback’ in the dialogue process. He added that while there was a feeling in India to continue to engage with Pakistan, but August 6-like incidents raised doubts on Pakistan’s sincerity.

He felt that both countries needed to work towards forging a common policy on combating terrorism that would help in allaying many misperceptions that existed. He believed the upcoming visit of the Joint Commission on the Mumbai trials to India would be helpful towards this end.

Kayani visits LoC

The confirmation of Nawaz-Singh meeting came as army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani visited troops in the disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir. This was Kayani’s first trip to the LoC following the flaring up of tensions between the two neighbours.

According to a statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Kayani expressed ‘complete satisfaction’ over the state of morale, operational preparedness and vigil being maintained by troops on the frontline.

He also paid tribute to the sacrifices of the officers and soldiers of Pakistan Army along the LOC. The local formation commander briefed Gen Kayani on the prevailing security situation and high state of alert being maintained by Pakistani troops, it added.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2013.

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