Bahrain, an influential Gulf country with friendly ties to both India and Pakistan, has welcomed the move to hold Foreign Secretary level talks on February 25.

However, the first round of talks need not cover all the subjects at the same time, as suggested by Pakistan, but take on more subjects in a gradual manner, Bahrain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, told The Hindu.

“What we like is that both countries have accepted the idea of talking to each other,” he observed. Although there are differences over whether all issues should be covered or the most pressing matter should be pursued, the positive thing is that both have agreed to talks. “They should immediately engage and warm up their relationship,” he said.

“They don’t need to reinvent what they have reached before — composite dialogue between them where they can talk everything including Kashmir and other issues. But there should be serious commitment from both parties and start talking by phasing it. The only happy side of India and Pakistan not talking to each other or postponing the talks are the terrorists and the enemies of both countries. The same enemy that is threatening India attacked us in Riyadh, Jeddah, Madrid, London and Pakistan,” he said.

With the Pune blasts occurring after his departure, Sheikh Khalid sent his condolences to External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna from Manama and expressed his country’s solidarity with India in combating terrorism that targets innocent people.

Bahrain, one of the earliest supporters of India attaining permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), once again reiterated its call for reforming the multilateral body. “India deserves to be there and should be there. We publicly support this stance and besides that, we are supporting India’s bid for 2011-13 for UNSC seat from Asia. But we want to see India as one of the pillars of stability in the world.”

Better prospects

The Minister felt prospects of closer economic cooperation between India and Bahrain were better than before because of several reasons. “We are well positioned because we are a stone’s throw from Saudi Arabia and a new causeway is being built towards Qatar. We are also much closer to emerging Iraq,” he pointed out. India can also immensely benefit from Bahrain’s free trade agreement with the U.S.

India’s role

On Iran, India, being a “world power for stability,” can play a positive role by applying the right pressure at the right time. “Iran is our neighbour. It is also in your neighbourhood. And you don’t want to see Iran in confrontation with anyone. If we continue to talk to them and give them the right advice it will only benefit all of us in the region,’ he said.

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