External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid continues to remain ambivalent on a meeting between the Prime Ministers of Pakistan and India, but sources said both sides were working the backchannels to set up an interaction in New York on September 27.
Asked if the fortnight-long cessation of hostilities on the Line of Control had created the right environment for New Delhi to accept its readiness to hold the first Prime Minister-level meeting after the general elections in Pakistan, Mr. Khurshid said this was not enough.
“No... we are keeping quiet on this and watching. I realise that the time is coming for the New York visit. So, obviously [the] call will be taken by the Prime Minister at an appropriate stage. But we will not hasten it as we do not want to jump the gun,” he told newspersons.
But sources familiar with the play of India-Pakistan relations said both sides were moving on two fronts. One, to address India’s concerns at intermittent acts of violence, masterminded or directly encouraged from across the border, that inflamed public opinion here. Second, discussions on some measures, including steps suggested by Pakistan to ease tensions on the border, to enable the Prime Ministers to meet on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
Mr. Khurshid highlighted the first approach. “We have been watching carefully and you know that such steps are necessary to be taken, but let’s stay low. We have to just analyse the information [that] comes in. We have sources through which information comes about what happens and why it happens, and who is taking credit for something that we consider utterly unacceptable.”
The second approach mainly caters for Islamabad’s desire to receive friendly gestures from New Delhi that would give Pakistan’s civilian government some political capital to counter certain elements who, Mr. Khurshid says are “taking credit for something that we consider utterly unacceptable.”
On top of the list is a visit by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Pakistan during which it would give India the most favoured status (MFN), a step that could catapult bilateral trade ten times in five years. Consensus on both fronts could convert the Prime Ministers’ meeting from a perfunctory exercise to one that could become result-oriented, the sources said.
Mr. Khurshid, while stressing the need for Pakistan to address India’s concerns, pointed out that there were “many things [that] still remain right,” and that New Delhi was not pushing Islamabad or setting any kind of deadline.