Manmohan, Zardari handshake “small step” towards bilateral thaw: NYT

June 17th, 2009 - 3:37 pm ICT by ANI  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, June.17 (ANI): Nearly seven months after India severed bilateral talks with Pakistan in the wake of the November 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh met Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari on the sidelines of a summit in Russia, hinting, albeit fleetingly, of a thaw between both countries.

During the meeting, which lasted less than an hour, Singh told Zardari that Pakistan must ensure India and the international community that Pakistan is acting against the use of its soil for terrorism.

“I am happy to meet you, but my mandate is to tell you that the territory of Pakistan must not be used for terrorism,” Singh told Zardari ahead of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting in Russia’s Yekaterinburg.

Nothing substantial emerged out of the meeting, but it is believed that the short face-to-face between the leadership of the two countries is a step, though a small one, towards reducing tension and resolving the long pending issues.

Former senior diplomats believed that that back-channel negotiations on Kashmir are set to begin again, something that the United States has been pressing for, The New York Times reports.

“It is in India’s interest to carry on talking,” said a retired major general of the Indian Army, Dipankar Banerjee.

“India can contribute to the destabilization and destruction of Pakistan in 5 to 10 years. But if you want a stable, secure Pakistan, you need to follow a different course,” Banerjee added.

However, some experts are not sure that the meeting would lead to some thing big.

They believe that absence of energy behind the Pakistani investigation into the Mumbai attack perpetrators revives old questions about Pakistan’s commitment to eliminating militant groups like Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT).

“Even if you resume the talks, it will have a very rough time,” said Lalit Mansingh, a former foreign secretary and Indian ambassador to the United States.

“With civilian authority weak and the Pakistani Army led by generals India does not trust, it was hard to know whom to talk to,” Mansingh said. (ANI)

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