Opinion » Columns » Siddharth Varadarajan

Updated: June 11, 2010 15:16 IST

India keen to engage ‘empowered' Gilani

Siddharth Varadarajan
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Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani during a meeting on the sidelines of the 16th SAARC summit in Thimphu. File Photo: AP
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani during a meeting on the sidelines of the 16th SAARC summit in Thimphu. File Photo: AP

After Thimphu, trust building key to emerging dialogue template

The recent empowerment of Pakistani prime minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and his favourable disposition towards peace were important factors in India’s willingness to put the dialogue process back on track.

Providing the first detailed account of the meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan and Mr. Gilani in Thimphu on April 28, senior officials said the question of ‘who India should talk to’ had been answered by the 18th amendment to the Pakistani constitution which enhanced the authority of the prime minister.

But personal equations between the two principals also mattered. “They do manage to communicate well with one another”, an official said. “There is a certain chemistry”. Last year, when Dr. Singh was under fire following the Sharm el-Sheikh summit, Mr. Gilani batted for him by telling reporters that what the Prime Minister had said in Parliament about the controversial joint statement ‘is what we agreed’. Dr. Singh had put an Indian spin on the terror-dialogue delinking issue but the Pakistani PM chose not to score points. “We remember that”, an Indian official told The Hindu. “He seems to be favourably disposed towards peace”.

India is prepared to move ahead on the basis of Mr. Gilani’s latest assurances because the 18th amendment had legally empowered him, the sources said. “In fact, Gilani told us, ‘I’ve come with the authority. I have the support of everyone’.” The sources also appreciated the fact that his statements on India had always been relatively restrained. “Until you show him a door, he has no incentive to start doing anything [about our concerns]. And you give your enemies the chance to say, ‘Look, India is not prepared to budge even a bit’.” Why should we allow them to fuse all Pakistanis behind them, the officials asked.

The sources said India and Pakistan came to Thimphu with constraints but agreed to lower the pitch. “We have opened the door to dialogue. The purpose is to restore trust. That’s what the foreign ministers and foreign secretaries have been tasked to do … This is not a dialogue to solve all issues immediately but to restore trust”.

The officials said Dr. Singh made it clear it is terrorism from Pakistan which has been preventing dialogue. “One of the most important things to restore trust is credible action by Pakistan”. Trust was a dynamic process, the sources said, adding that the “best scenario” would be one where the 26/11 trial ends soon with convictions, Pakistan takes “credible action” against terrorist groups and the dialogue moves alongside. “We had two choices at Thimphu. First, to have ‘talks about talks’. This was the weasel option, of endless arguments about terrorism lists, Kashmir, water etc. The second was to recognise that if the problem is lack of trust, let’s make trust the issue. It opens [things] up”.

Asked if this was a new template, the officials said, “I don’t think you can give it a name. The advantage of this is that it is open. It has potential”.

The one-on-one meeting between the two prime ministers was about clearing the air, the sources said, and not a ‘negotiations meeting’. Mr. Gilani spoke about the problems Pakistan was facing in dealing with terrorism. Dr. Singh replied that the slow pace of the 26/11 trial and the threats being issued by Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed were a source of frustration for India. Mr. Gilani said he understood India’s concerns and that his government would find a legal way to address them

And we're supposed to keep faith on this? The fact that a Pakistani politician wants to "talk" when his country is not even fully in his control? Let's expect nothing but wasted time - which we seem to have plenty of, while other countries tell us attacks are imminent on New Delhi.

from:  B S Kumar
Posted on: May 2, 2010 at 10:21 IST

Can Prime Minister Gilani,even after the newly acquired constitutional power, overlook the agenda of Pakistan's military leaders? When the main source of its political power is the imagined threat from India, the milatary is not at all likely to allow the civilian government to negotiate away this threat. Moreover there is the question of the present political clout of the ruling party in Pakistan. By the way, with the UPA government having quickly lost its post-election shine, will Prime Minister Manmohan Singh be able to get the opposition on board on the negotiating political platform? These are questions to be pondered over before taking an optimistic stand on solving Indo-Pak problems.

from:  K.Vijayakumar
Posted on: May 2, 2010 at 10:15 IST

Empowered Gilani is a myth that is being created. The Constitutional process in Pakistan is a joke. Does 18th Amendment allow Gilani to strike a deal with India without getting an express approval from General Kiyani? Everybody knows, but some Indian analysts refuse to accept, that in matters of India, Afghanistan and nuclear issue Pakistani army as a veto power.

from:  Ptakash Bal
Posted on: May 2, 2010 at 06:50 IST

SO FAR SO GOOD.Manmohan Singh and Gilani both have done a good job so far. HOPE FOR THE BEST.Now the wisest thing to do is to STOP the terror emanating from Pakistan and Manmohan Singh has already assured to walk the Extra Mile.All that is very difficult to happen BUT can happen if the will is there on both sides.VERY VERY DIFFICULT TO REIN IN THE ARMY AND THE ISI?

from:  NP Singh
Posted on: May 2, 2010 at 01:23 IST

Wasn't Mr Musharraf also 'empowered'? What happened ?
If Mr Gilani is empowered let's see some rudimentary evidence of it.
Let him first prosecute the murderers of own Party leader, Benazir Bhutto.
Or is he too scared , as the UN commission believes, of getting in the way of the agencies or establishment of Pakistan ?

from:  Rajiv
Posted on: May 2, 2010 at 00:17 IST
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