India, Pakistan PMs Vow to Start ‘New Chapter’

As Reported by The Economic Times

The prime ministers of India and Pakistan said Thursday they expected to open a “new chapter” at future talks between the rival nations after they met at a regional summit in the Maldives.

India’s Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani said their often strained ties were improving, but they declined to give a date for their next meeting.

“The time has come to write a new chapter in the history of our countries,” Singh told reporters. “The next round of talks should be far more productive and far more practical-orientated in bringing the two countries closer.”

Gilani said that “all issues” had been discussed during their one-hour meeting including the contentious subject of Kashmir, a Muslim-majority region divided between the two nuclear rivals and claimed in its entirety by both.

“I am ready to discuss each and every issue,” Gilani said. “I think that the next round of the talks would be more constructive, more positive, and will open a new chapter in the history of both the countries.”

The leaders did not give further details of their discussions on the sidelines of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) gathering in the Maldives.

However Singh added that the two sides should push to make real progress as they had “wasted lot of time in the past in acrimonious debates”.

The two men emphasised their warm friendship and shook hands twice to oblige photographers at the start of closed-door talks at the luxury Shangri-La Villingili island resort.

After the meeting, the two men headed for the opening of the SAARC summit, where their host, Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed, hailed their dialogue.

“These developments are extremely welcome,” he said. “I hope this summit will be enthused with optimism.”

The two prime ministers last met in March when Gilani accepted Singh’s invitation to watch the India-Pakistan cricket World Cup semi-final. Their previous talks were at the April 2010 SAARC summit in Bhutan.

Both countries, who have fought three wars since independence in 1947, struck an upbeat note ahead of the Maldives summit, with officials describing the cross-border atmosphere as “considerably improved”.

However the vexed subject of Kashmir and the threat of Pakistan-based extremism remain major obstacles to their ongoing peace process.

A full peace dialogue — suspended by India after the 2008 Mumbai attacks blamed on Pakistan-based militants — was resumed in February this year.

The process remains tentative with only incremental progress on issues such as trade.

Last week, Pakistan’s cabinet announced it had approved a proposal giving India the status of “most favoured nation” but there has been confusion about when it will be implemented.

Efforts to reduce tensions have been complicated by concern over Afghanistan’s prospects as international troops begin departing after ten years of fighting the Taliban.

Indian involvement in Afghanistan is sensitive, with Pakistan vehemently opposed to its arch foe meddling in what it considers its backyard.

Islamabad’s suspicions were fuelled when Afghanistan and India signed a strategic partnership pact last month.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is also attending the SAARC summit, along with the leaders of other member nations Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

  1. Well a lot is said, and will be said as sweet talks but until the ground realities change, nothing worth while between the two neighbouring countries; which are always portrayed as “arch enemies, foes, rivals” remain a stark reality; can be expected to change. There are definitive economic, religious, historical
    national and international reasons that will not permit them to materialise these reveries. There is a compulsion for Pakistani establishment to fein closer ties with India – whom the West keep portraying as Hindu nation on one hand when they need to spew venom against India and as the largest democracy of the world, when it suits them that way. Pakistan certainly doesn’t have any marks to score on this count but the hardest line Islamist State.

    On the part of the West aka US, they have their own compulsions of getting out of Afghanistan begining next year and start of elections in US and France next year on one hand and their massive business interests in the weapon industry-banks-geopolitical strategy on the other hand; are some such agendas with its international ramifications – that cannot be discounted. It is here that Pakistan has been severely marginalised in the international eyes; is not the compulsive political diplomatic reason (I hope) behind these recent salvos being tested with India. If that be so, and the obtuse shielding of the Islamist jihadi infrastructure in Punjab and Sindh provinces will not let the relations stabilise under any circumstances. It will take the concerned hardliner non state actor in disguise to send a jihadi death squad to unleash the other Islamic Bomb blast and a civilian mass mutilation to make this bonhomie null and void.

    I am sorry but we cannot deny these historical hard truths which have hardly changed at ground level. Yes we must try to attempt at least exchange of sweet
    face saving facades when our times run on the contrary. When can we begin to stop portraying ourselves as “arch enemies” to begin with? We must match our Holy textbooks before this reverie. With my this cautious caveat, I must wish the people of both nations irrespective of their hateful faiths and beliefs – well.

    I also hope that the judges who have fled Pakistan for delivering their fearless judicial verdicts in the recent blasphemy trials are safe enough whether in Pakistan or any other Arab nation. God bless the two Godly nations.

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