Pakistan wanted timeline for discussing all issues
Differences over the pace at which outstanding issues such as Siachen and Kashmir would be taken up undermined Thursday's Foreign Minister-level talks with Pakistan, but officials from both sides denied that the acrimony displayed in Islamabad meant the process of engagement suffered a setback or even broken down.
While Pakistan wanted all outstanding issues, ranging from Siachen to terrorism, addressed in a time-bound manner, India felt the terror issue must first be comprehensively addressed to inject a degree of normality to the situation, highly placed sources said. They termed Pakistan's expectations of a full-fledged dialogue unrealistic.
Rejecting the suggestion of a deadlock during the Foreign Minister-level talks, India said it had put forward proposals to improve bilateral ties and contribute to confidence building in several areas , the sources said.
External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said here that India did not think it was prudent at this stage to accept the Pakistani offer of timelines because of the complexity of the issues involved. “We told them terrorism is the biggest problem in normalising relations. Unless this is met, everything else will be futile. In diplomatic parleys, we don't go by a timeline unless it is absolutely necessary. The question of timeline was not feasible.''
The Minister dismissed suggestions that the Indian delegation was not flexible and ill-prepared. “I am not going to score debating points. The fact of the matter is we did discuss many issues of concern…. The mandate was very clear. As External Affairs Minister, I confined myself to the mandate. I am quite satisfied,'' he observed.
Mr. Krishna was noncommittal on reactivating back channel negotiations and appeared to favour official level talks. “This [back channel talks] is something to be evaluated.''
On Mr. Qureshi equating Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed with Union Home Secretary G. K. Pillai, Mr. Krishna said the former was speaking “out of turn against India, crying for jihad against India'' and is part of the grouping hampering better bilateral ties. On the other hand, Mr. Pillai based his accusation on the interrogation of alleged LeT operative David Coleman Headley and there was “no comparison between the two.''
Mr. Krishna denied Mr. Qureshi's charge that it was very difficult to conduct the dialogue because he was constantly on the phone. The Minister said he was totally cut off from India and in any case his mandate was “so precise and clear that it did not need additional instructions from Delhi.”