India on Thursday asked Pakistan to put “all cards on the table” during the next round of comprehensive talks so that both countries could actually move towards resolving some of the issues bedevilling their ties.
At an hour-long meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani, India announced a trade-related confidence-building measure to match Pakistan according the most favoured nation (MFN) status to India.
Dr. Singh said India had decided to move towards a Preferential Trade Agreement with Pakistan. He also said a liberalised visa regime to replace the current onerous system would be implemented soon.
With the previous round of meetings having witnessed both sides simply reiterating their positions, the Prime Ministers hoped that frankness would prevail when talks covering all subjects opened next Tuesday, with a meeting of the Commerce Secretaries to be followed by one between the Home Secretaries in December.
“We have wasted a lot of time in acrimonious debate in the past. The time has come to write a new chapter in relations,” Dr. Singh said after meeting Mr. Gilani at a picturesque island resort on Villingili, just before the opening of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit.
Calling Mr. Gilani a “man of peace,” the Prime Minister wanted both countries to join hands in combating terrorism so that this “perennial concern” did not affect relations again.
At the same time, he reminded Mr. Gilani of Pakistan's unfinished agenda of bringing to book the masterminds of the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, which led to a freeze on the composite dialogue till the two leaders met on the sidelines of the previous SAARC summit in Thimphu.
Mr. Gilani responded by hoping that the next round of the talks, if held under the rubric of frankness and openness, would be “more constructive, more positive, and will open a new chapter in the history of both the countries.”
Besides resolving to candidly discuss all outstanding issues, ranging from Jammu & Kashmir to Sir Creek, the Prime Ministers focused on terrorism and trade.
They agreed that the measures to facilitate trade and travel across the Line of Control, decided upon by the Foreign Ministers in their July meeting, should be implemented expeditiously. Both Prime Ministers urged a greater degree of openness in discussing all issues of discord during the next round of line Ministry-level talks.
They also decided to revive the Joint Commission, said to be the bread and butter of bilateral ties, which has not met for six years.