Amit Baruah

SAARC a chance to re-examine relationship

NEW DELHI: The Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan, Shyam Saran and Riaz Muhammad Khan, are likely to exchange views on the current impasse in bilateral relations during a meeting with their South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) colleagues on July 31 and August 1.

Highly-placed Government sources told this correspondent that whether or not a "formal" bilateral meeting between the Indian and Pakistani Foreign Secretaries took place in Dhaka, the two officials would get a chance to look again at the state of their relationship.

It may be recalled that after the July 11 Mumbai killings, India decided to postpone Foreign Secretary-level talks, which are part and parcel of the composite dialogue process between the two countries. Pakistan, in turn, said that this postponement ought not to have occurred.

When asked if India would offer to pick up the threads of the Foreign Secretary-level talks in Dhaka, the sources indicated that New Delhi was yet to take a final view on the matter.

Though the External Affairs Ministry spokesman, articulating the Government stand, had expressed disappointment at the recent speech made by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, the sources believed that his remarks were a result of the pressure mounted on Islamabad as a result of the G-8 statement on the Mumbai blasts.

On his part, the spokesman told presspersons on July 21, " ... India remains committed to the dialogue process with Pakistan but this can be sustained and can yield results only if Pakistan acts against terrorist groups operating from territory under its control, in accordance with its solemn commitments enshrined in the Joint Press Statement of January 6, 2004."

The Manmohan Singh Government, which successfully used the G-8 meeting in St. Petersburg to obtain a strong condemnation of the Mumbai killings, is also in the process of addressing its core, domestic audience when dealing with Pakistan.

Though no direct evidence has been produced by the investigation between the Pakistani state and the Mumbai blasts, New Delhi has generally pointed in the direction of Pakistan-based groups that have been responsible for sensational terrorist attacks in India.

Analysts, however, point out that the language being used by the Manmohan Singh Government against Pakistan has been sharp and direct. Given that there is always the fear of more terrorist attacks, the Government might well hold back for some time before deciding to resume the dialogue process with Islamabad.