NEW DELHI - India wants resolution of all outstanding issues with Pakistan, including Kashmir, says Indian Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh.
“We need to break down the old barriers. India wants progress with Pakistan in all segments of life and resolution of disputes, but without the involvement of outsiders,” the highest Indian foreign office official told a select group of Pakistani journalist during a briefing here on Friday.
It was interesting and surprising at the same time to find out that the remarks about Kashmir were part of Sujatha Singh’s initial statement at the outset, and not part of any hard-pushed query. The Indian foreign secretary was blunt on terrorism-related issues between the South Asian neighbours. In a nutshell, for now India wants improvement of trade relations with Pakistan on fast track (MFN status to India a pre-requisite) and progress on Mumbai attack investigation as these confidence-building measures would accelerate any meaningful composite dialogue.
She said Pakistan and India are on the path of having good trade, cultural relations, people-to-people contact, but need of the hour is building bridges of trust and confidence – elusive so far. “For some months everything goes right in Pakistan-India relations. And then something happens suddenly to roll back the progress,” the India foreign secretary complained. “We go by the facts on the ground,” she explained when asked why India was not so keen on starting the composite dialogue process with Pakistan at the earliest as is being wished by the Pakistani leadership.
Detailing the steps she thinks India has taken so far to normalise relations with Pakistan, she puts the onus of success of new initiatives on the Pakistani side. “Pakistan will have to trigger the first step now like Wahga-Attari border opening as agreed. We believe the conditions are now right for the implementation of non-tariff barrier regime,” Ms Singh hoped, assuring at the same time that India never intended to destroy any sector of Pakistani economy, including agriculture. “We only hope that Pakistan is able to carry out economic reforms and pursue the path of development,” she added.
The Indian foreign secretary cautioned: “India can’t be pushed or intimidated through violence and terrorism. Violence cannot be the answer. Fact of the matter is that terrorism is emanating from Pakistan even today. In Kashmir (Pakistani side) infrastructure of terrorism remains intact,” she alleged.
She made it clear that resumption of composite dialogue with Pakistan is directly related to the issue of terrorism. “As long as we have shadow of terrorism roaming over our heads, it is going to be difficult,” Ms Singh cautioned.
Recalling the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, the Indian foreign secretary noted the Mumbai attacks were a turning point in Indo-Pak relations. “These attacks created enormous shock in India in which 166 people died. People who planned this have not been brought to justice by the Pakistani side. There has to be some sense of closure, justice done to the planners behind those attacks. The issue of Mumbai is still alive here. These are certain hard realities on the ground,” she stressed. Ms Singh, however, played down the Samjhota Express tragedy in which a number of Pakistanis were brutally killed and, later, fingers were pointed out towards the elements linked to the Indian military establishment and agencies, arguing that justice was taking its own course in that matter. She also didn’t acknowledge the fact that some people India accuses for being behind the Mumbai attacks have been exonerated by the Pakistani courts for lack of evidence.
“Despite the tragic legacy of the partition, we have always wanted good relations with Pakistan so that both the countries could focus on uplift and development of their people living in poverty,” she lamented.
Brushing aside concerns that India’s friendship overtures will be backtracked if the opposition’s BJP comes to power, she assured that India’s policy towards Pakistan remains almost the same regardless of which party comes to power after April’s elections.
“India wants a stable, prosperous and economically stable Pakistan. It is not in our interest to see a divided Pakistan,” she stated when asked about the allegations of Indian support for Baloch insurgents in Pakistan. Asked whether the Pakistan side has ever shared any evidence regarding Indian involvement in Balochistan, she said no such evidence was ever handed over.
When asked whether there is some thinking on the lines to have a meeting between India and Pakistan intelligence chiefs, she said: “I look forward to the day when we have trust and confidence in each other. Unfortunately, we haven’t reached that day as yet.”