India-Pakistan Foreign Minister-level talks covered lot of ground: Manmohan

Underlining the need to remain engaged with Pakistan, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his British counterpart, David Cameron, on Thursday called on Islamabad to be indiscriminate in cracking down on terror groups operating from its soil.

“We believe that Pakistan should be as serious in paying attention to terror on its western borders as on the eastern borders. I sincerely hope the world community would use its good offices to promote this,” Dr. Singh said at a joint press conference with Mr. Cameron here. “It is not acceptable, as I have said, for there to be within Pakistan existence of terror groups that cause terrorism within Pakistan, outside Pakistan, in Afghanistan, India and elsewhere in the world,” added Mr. Cameron. At the same time, Pakistan should be encouraged to take steps to see that terror was reduced. “We want to work with Pakistan to make it fight the LeT [Lashkar-e-Taiba] and Afghan or Pakistan Taliban. The Pakistan government has taken steps and it needs to take further steps to reduce terrorism in Afghanistan, India and the streets of London. I think the right thing is to have discussion with Pakistan frankly, clearly and openly. Next week, I will have discussions with the President of Pakistan,'' he said.

Making the same point, Dr. Singh hoped that Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi would accept the invitation to visit India later this year so that “sooner or later” the dialogue was restored to the “proper sense of purpose.”

In his first observations on the July 15 talks in Islamabad between the Indian and Pakistani Foreign Ministers, Dr. Singh said the discussions covered a lot of ground but the outcome appeared to be rancorous due to Mr. Qureshi's comments at a press conference that followed. Regretting the “way in which the press conference was handled,” he, nevertheless, felt that the discussions managed to “reach agreements on a large number of issues having a bearing on bilateral ties.”

“The way the press conference was handled by the Pakistani Foreign Minister distracted from the larger elements of the agreements reached between the Foreign Ministers of both countries,” he observed while declining to judge the outcome of the talks because “we are too close to events to pass a firm judgment on the outcome of the recent discussions.”

Replying to another question, Dr. Singh expressed the hope that Pakistan would honour the commitments given to him and his predecessors on many occasions that terror from its territory would not be directed against India.

Asked what the international community would do to see that Pakistan did not export terror, Mr. Cameron concurred with Dr. Singh's observations and added that Pakistan must crack down on or eliminate all terror groups, including the LeT.

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