India, Pakistan say talks to continue, play down negatives
After two days of sharp rhetorical exchanges following foreign minister-level talks, India and Pakistan Saturday played down differences.
New Delhi/Islamabad: After two days of sharp rhetorical exchanges following foreign minister-level talks, India and Pakistan Saturday played down differences, saying the talks have not collapsed and the engagement to normalise ties will continue.
However, even as the two sides tried to counter the widespread perception that the July 15 talks ended in a deadlock, they seemed to echo their core concerns. While Pakistani leaders said that all issues should be discussed, India reiterated that it preferred a gradual, calibrated approach.
India`s Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao stressed that the talks had not "collapsed" and the dialogue process "must go on". But in the same breath, she asked Pakistan to introspect on why the terror machine is being used against India.
"I am constrained to say that there are state and non-state actors and Pakistan needs to undergo that whole process of... catharisis when it comes to understanding why terror is now threatening the very fabric of Pakistan itself," Rao told NDTV in an interview.
"There is a gap in perception. But these are not unbridgeable divides between India and Pakistan," she said, adding that the two sides discussed various ideas for reducing trust deficit and taking the dialogue process forward.
"There was a hiatus in expectations from both sides and we had a very clear set of doables that we thought we would discuss with Pakistan. The Pakistanis came to this with a slightly different expectation. I think the aim on their side was to see the entire spectrum of dialogue restored," she added.
Rao stressed that the talks will continue. "We don`t have the luxury of maintaining irresolvable distances between our two countries."
Pakistan struck a conciliatory note. "Pakistan wants the continuation of dialogue with India. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has assured me that all issues will be discussed," Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said in Lahore, while describing his Indian counterpart as an "honourable man".
"We want talks, they (India) too want talks. When talks are held, we will discuss all issues. At this stage, I cannot say anything," he said.
The talks between Pakistan`s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and his Indian counterpart S.M. Krishna Thursday ended in a deadlock as Pakistan raked up human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir and India reiterated its position that Pakistan must address its core concern on terror before moving on to other issues.
In Islamabad, Qureshi, who had blamed India Friday for its selective focus on terror to the exclusion of Jammu and Kashmir, stressed that Pakistan is "very serious" about normalising bilateral ties.
"We are very serious about normalising our relations with India. I met with my Indian counterpart in Islamabad just day before yesterday. We agreed to embark on a sustained dialogue process. The decision to continue the talks is a good augury," he said.
In New Delhi, Rao, however, made it clear that India continues to have concerns about the role of state actors - a veiled allusion to Pakistani spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) - in terrorism directed against India.
"We are definitely concerned about the role of state actors in terrorism," she said.
Pakistani-American terror operative David Coleman Headley has disclosed to Indian investigators that besides Laskhar-e-Taiba, figures in the Pakistani establishment, including the ISI, were involved in the Mumbai carnage.
Rejecting Qureshi`s claim that Krishna had supported him in his criticism of Home Secretary G.K Pillai`s remarks on the role of the ISI in 26/11, Rao said: "India did not express any agreement with Pakistan`s comments on Pillai".
Rao also backed Pillai`s statement, saying that India is definitely concerned about ISI`s role in 26/11.
Rao, however, rued that the tone and tenor of Qureshi`s remarks could have been better. "In diplomacy, as in life, such ups and downs are common," she said when asked about Qureshi`s taunt at a press conference in Islamabad Friday where he said Krishna was taking phone calls from New Delhi while talks were on.