The upcoming meeting between the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan is aimed at building a climate of trust for future talks between the neighbours but much will depend on what Islamabad actually does, official sources said on Thursday.
The sources said India was being “realistic” in going ahead with the meeting, as beyond a point, putting off talks was likely to yield diminishing returns. “However, this [meeting] is not aimed at resolving outstanding issues. We are fully conscious of the complexities involved in the process and are therefore adopting a nuanced approach to the dialogue.”
The sources reiterated that terrorism directed at India remained “our core concern”, indeed that the terror strike on Pune had put this concern in sharper focus. New Delhi was, in fact, clear that the talks did not signal the resumption of the composite dialogue put on hold following the November 26, 2008 Mumbai terror attack: “The Indian focus during the talks would be on terror. If Pakistan has other concerns, we are willing to address them. However, the future course of the dialogue would depend on how they respond to our concerns.”
The sources said there had been legitimate reasons, including a sharp domestic reaction, for suspending talks in the aftermath of the Mumbai attack. While this strategy had paid good dividends, today the situation had reached a stage where “not talking” could become counter-productive, more so given Pakistan’s own vulnerability in dealing with terrorism.
The situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan was very different from what it was a year ago, the sources said. The ‘core establishment’ led by the military had strengthened itself vis-à-vis the civilian government and wanted tension on the India-Pakistan border. “The establishment wants to rally the whole of Pakistan behind it and nothing works like a bombing… So if we were to have an instinctive reaction, this would be playing into their hands.”
Pointing to the volley of provocative statements from across the border, among them the February 5 warning of Abdur Rehman Makki that Pune could be a future target, the sources stressed the importance of dialogue in cooling tempers and restoring normality. “We need to be sensible in the way we approach each other as we are both victims of terror. If anything, we need CBMs (confidence building measures) on terror,” the government sources said. “Whether we talk or not, terrorists have continued making attempts. The way you deal with this is by hardening yourself internally.”