`India, Pak must focus on creative and realistic approach`

India, Pak have begun the long haul of normalising relations with each other.

Islamabad: India and Pakistan must focus on a creative and realistic approach as they begin the long haul of normalising relations following a constructive meeting of their foreign secretaries, the media and analysts here said on Friday.

News reports of the cordial meeting between Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir dominated the front pages of the dailies, and the report in the influential Dawn newspaper carried the headline "It`s a long haul to peace".

In its editorial, the Dawn said "not much was expected" from yesterday`s meeting and "not much was offered afterwards for public consumption other than blandishments".

At the same time, it noted that it was in Pakistan`s interests "to talk, and talk soon, about the `core` issues, Kashmir, water, etc".

"Yet, diplomatic breakthroughs are not gained by sitting back and sticking to traditional demands. In Prime Minister (Manmohan) Singh, Pakistan has a potential peace partner who appears willing to at least go beyond the bare minimum in the quest for peace. Creative thinking here could give the latest `process` the necessary impetus," it said.

The Daily Times newspaper, in its editorial `A constructive engagement`, too noted that the meeting of the Foreign Secretaries was not expected to "yield any major breakthrough" as the officials had held talks to set the agenda for the foreign ministers` meeting to be held on July 15.

However, it said the meeting "exuded optimism and positive understanding" and the joint news briefing by the foreign secretaries indicated the two sides had "engaged constructively".

"At this point we must keep our expectations realistic," the editorial said.

"There is now a convergence of interests between India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, because they are all afflicted in differing degrees by the same problem - terrorism. In addition to resolving their old disputes, they must focus their minds on this phenomenon, which is no respecter of boundaries," it added.

The Daily Times also noted that there was a "visible shift in the tone of India" since the SAARC summit in Bhutan in April.

"It seems that India has been persuaded to rethink the hard stance it had held post-Mumbai that without Pakistan clamping down on terrorist networks and bringing the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack to justice, there can be no peace process between India and Pakistan," it said.

There were indications of an internal debate in India, which has realised that the "policy of disengagement has run its course", the newspaper said.

Also, not engaging with Pakistan means ceding ground to the terrorists, whose ultimate aim is to damage efforts at normalisation of relations between the two countries," it observed.

Both newspapers said several contentious issues remained outstanding between India and Pakistan, including complex ones like Kashmir and terrorism and "resolvable" issues such as Siachen and Sir Creek.

"Undeniably, terrorism is a key issue between the two countries at present. Yet, bizarrely, there is no effective mechanism for sharing intelligence on potential terrorist activities between the two countries," the Dawn said in its editorial.

Pakistani analysts contended that there is a need to build on the work done by the Foreign Secretaries without getting bogged down in the complexities of disputes that have dragged on for many decades.

"I got the feeling that for the first time since the Agra summit of 2001, there was a deliberate effort by the two sides to be sweet and fluffy after yesterday`s talks. This was noticeable especially when compared to the deep and visible discomfort in evidence in recent interactions," leading columnist Mosharraf Zaidi said.

Zaidi said there might have been a "deliberate effort to dial down" differences between the two sides and such efforts are "very important should not be dismissed".

He added: "Such a stance must be sustained so that it can change the bitterness between the two countries even if the outstanding issues continue to exist. The mood can change and we must invest in this process even if is a protracted process."


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