Monday, April 9, 2012

Manmohan-Zardari Talks: Pakistani President on Dargah Diplomacy

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari paid day-long private visit to India on April 8. During his stay and talks with Indian leaders, he offered prayers at the Ajmer Sharif did help the two South Asian neighbors reduce mutual tension and consider practical ways to speedily settle some of the less contentious issues such as Sir Creek and Siachen.
At his one-on-one meeting with Zardari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, however, made it a point to highlight the issue of terrorism upfront and unequivocally told the Pakistani leader that action must be initiated against Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed and other perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai attack.
The Pakistani president offered prayers at the historic 13th century dargah of sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer after which a $1 million donation for the shrine was announced.
Friendly and Constructive Progress
After a warm handshake and clasp and smiles for the media, the two leaders sat down for talks, which Singh said were "very constructive and friendly."
The prime minister clearly told the Pakistani president at their talks that progress in bilateral relations rested entirely on the way Islamabad handled terrorism, stressing that those behind the 26/11 Mumbai attack must be brought to justice.
Manmohan Singh also accepted Zardari’s invitation to visit Pakistan, and hoped such a visit would take the peace process forward. Singh also brought up the activities of Hafiz Saeed, the 26/11 mastermind, on whom the US has recently put a $10 million bounty.
Singh also told Zardari that Pakistan must prevent terrorist activities against India from its soil. The two leaders discussed the problem of terrorism, which is a major issue by which the Indian people will judge progress in the bilateral relationship.
Reflecting the view of Islamabad, the Pakistani president said the issue of Hafiz Saeed, on whose head the US recently declared a bounty of $10 million, needed to be discussed between the Home/Interior secretaries of the two countries who would meet shortly in Islamabad. He also stated that there were legal processes in Pakistan without going through which the civilian government could not move against the masterminds of the Mumbai attack.
Kashmir, Siachen and Sir Creek Issues
On “core issues” such as Kashmir, Siachen and Sir Creek, the two sides noted Sir Creek was “doable.”
Zardari raised issues such as Sir Creek, Siachen and Jammu and Kashmir and stressed the need for resolving them. To this, the prime minister said both sides needed to move step by step and that the bilateral dialogue was in the mutual interest of the two countries.
India-China Model Emulated

However, for the first time perhaps, Islamabad indicated that it was seriously looking at the India-China model of bilateral relations wherein the two countries have put contentious issue on the backburner and made significant gains in their trade and commercial ties.
The Pakistani president said though India had several issues of discord with China, their trade relations were booming. Zardari suggested that the India-China model could help improve the relations between India and Pakistan.
High-level officials have been pointing out that more than action against Hafiz Saeed, this visit could begin the trend of top leaders meeting each other more frequently so that issues that appear to be getting nowhere in talks with bureaucrats — such as the stapled visa issue with China — could be resolved to reduce ill will.
Prime Minister Accepts Invitation To Visit Islamabad
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has accepted an invitation to visit Pakistan, with India indicating that concrete actions against anti-India terrorists.
Only recently, he had told Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani that the time to visit should be when there is a substantive announcement to make — something “solid” on the table. There is, therefore, a nuanced shift here. Since Pakistan has entered its election year, it is to be seen if the prime minister will seek to visit before the elections are announced. To that extent, he may have put himself under some pressure to decide unless he does indeed intend to go to Pakistan soon. After the election, the invitation will have to be renewed by the next government if Singh is to contemplate a visit.

China Lauds Development

China has lauded Zardari's visit to New Delhi, stating better ties between the two nuclear-armed neighbors would benefit both countries and bring stability in the region. Better ties between Pakistan and India, two nuclear-armed heavyweight neighbors on the South Asian subcontinent, will benefit both countries and regional stability. The two countries’ efforts in warming up their ties certainly are welcomed and applauded by the international community including China, which neighbors both nations and maintains significant ties with them.China and Pakistan have been all-weather friends over the past decades, while both China and India have been members of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), a bloc of five major emerging economies that also includes Brazil, Russia and South Africa.
After the improvement in trade relations, marked by Pakistan recently agreeing to India’s long-standing demand of barring only those Indian goods that are on a negative list, Zardari’s lunch with the Prime Minister in a conducive atmosphere in the Indian capital will push the sense along that the mood is not one of hostility, although Islamabad has done little to bring the Mumbai attackers to justice.

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