Posts Tagged ‘ Bhutan ’

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.


Trust Deficit with Pakistan Shrinking: Singh

As Reported by The Express-Tribune via AFP



The leaders of India and Pakistan will meet on the sidelines of a regional summit this week, as the nuclear-armed rivals seek to push a tentative rapprochement in their fractious relationship.

Talks between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani will take place at the summit of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) nations that opens Thursday in the Maldives.

India’s foreign minister said Wednesday that a “trust deficit” with Pakistan was shrinking as he headed for a regional summit, in a clear sign of warming relations between the neighbours.

“The trust deficit with Pakistan is shrinking,” S.M. Krishna said on board his flight to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in the Maldives, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

He also said that it was necessary for Pakistan and India to develop a joint strategy to fight terror in the region, the agency reported.

Their meeting follows what Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai described as “positive indicators” from Pakistan in recent weeks that it is serious about reducing tensions.

An Indian military helicopter which strayed into Pakistani territory last month was promptly released along with its crew and returned to India, avoiding what in the past could easily have escalated into a diplomatic row.

And last week the Pakistani cabinet approved a proposal to grant India the status of “most favoured nation” in a move towards normalising trade relations.

“These are I would say indications of forward movement,” Mathai said, adding that “all aspects” of the India-Pakistan relationship would be discussed during the Singh-Gilani talks.

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

Talks between the neighbours’ foreign ministers in July failed to produce a major breakthrough, but both sides signalled a warming of ties, with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani speaking of a “new era of cooperation.”

But efforts to reduce tensions have been complicated by the increasing influence of Afghanistan in the bilateral equation.

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 will also attend the SAARC summit, along with the leaders of other member nations Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Previous summits of the regional body have been largely overshadowed by the India-Pakistan dynamic — a fact that Mathai acknowledged with regret.

“We would like the focus to remain essentially on the common business of SAARC … and hope that the focus will not be diverted to one single event,” he said. The summit is being held in Addu, on the southern Maldives’ island of Gan.

Top Diplomats From India, Pakistan Meet on Sidelines of Regional Conference

By Anjana Pasricha for The Voice of America

Officials from India and Pakistan have met to discuss the possible resumption of a stalled peace process. The meeting was held Sunday on the sidelines of a regional conference in Bhutan. The discussions are another step in building trust between the two rival nations.

Indian and Pakistani diplomats made no specific announcements, but sounded positive after their late Sunday discussions in the Bhutanese capital, Thimpu.

Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao expressed optimism on Monday. But she also said government leaders would remain realistic, pointing out that the relationship between the two countries is “complex.”   

“We talked about the process to chart the way forward, what the best modalities would be,” Rao said.

The meeting in Bhutan was held on the sidelines of a South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation conference. It was the first time in six months that officials representing the two countries met to discuss the possibility of resuming peace talks. India suspended peace talks more than two years ago after terror attacks in Mumbai killed more than 160 people. The attacks were blamed on Pakistan-based Islamic militants.

There had been some expectation that the two countries would set a date for resuming full-fledged peace talks, but that did not happen.

Commenting on the meeting, Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna said in New Delhi that the two countries are trying to re-build trust, and build bridges of confidence.

“The very fact that the two foreign secretaries have met, it is certainly an indication of the fact that solid foundations are being laid for getting the two countries on to a sustained engagement,” Krishna said.  

India is under pressure to return to the negotiating table and resolve its many differences with Pakistan.

But New Delhi accuses Islamabad of not doing enough to bring the Pakistan-based perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attacks to justice. It says relations between the two countries cannot improve unless Pakistan cracks down on the Islamic militant group, Laskhar-e-Taiba.

Pakistan says it has put on trial seven of the suspected Mumbai attackers. Meanwhile, Islamabad says it wants New Delhi to take action against those responsible for the 2007 bombing of a train that runs between the two countries.


Difficult Outlook for India-Pakistan Talks

By Tom Wright for The Wall Street Journal 

The Times of India reported today that India and Pakistan may try to rekindle peace talks in early February.

The paper says Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi could meet his Indian counterpart, S.M. Krishna, informally after a regional meeting in Bhutan on Feb. 8.

The report suggests that the idea is to set the ground rules for an official visit to India by Mr. Qureshi sometime later this year in a bid to normalize relations that have soured since a major terror attack in Mumbai in 2008.

Given the disastrous outcome of Mr. Krishna’s last formal visit to Pakistan – in July of last year – those ground rules will be important.

At that meeting, Mr. Qureshi became incensed during a press conference over India’s claims that Pakistan’s military intelligence services had orchestrated the Mumbai attacks in November 2008, during which 10 Pakistani gunmen killed more than 160 people over three days.

Mr. Krishna arrived back in India to criticism of being made to look a fool by Mr. Qureshi and a peace talks process begun in 2004 was put on hold amid mutual recriminations. The slow-moving (and now stalled) dialogue is an attempt to normalize relations that have been rocky ever since the two nations were created out of British India in 1947.

India has stuck to its claims of official Pakistan involvement in the Mumbai attacks and says Islamabad is not doing enough to prosecute the perpetrators and rein in India-focused militants in general.

Pakistan retorts that it is committed to fighting terrorism. It also has called on India to broaden the agenda for peace talks to include other topics, such as the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir, which both countries claim in its entirety.

It is uncertain whether talks at this stage can produce anything meaningful

India is set against any wider peace talks until Pakistan sentences seven militants that it has charged for involvement in the Mumbai attacks.

But the atmosphere in Pakistan right now means it is unlikely that any politician will want to be seen vigorously cracking down on Islamist groups.

The killing earlier this month of Salmaan Taseer, governor of Pakistan’s Punjab province, by one of his own police guards has uncovered the extent to which hardline religious views have permeated many layers of society.

The police guard admitted he was angered by Mr. Taseer’s defense of a Christian woman sentenced to death by a Pakistani court in November for blasphemy.

In recent days, scores of Pakistanis, including lawyers and clerics, have publicly rallied in support of the police officer.


Krishna Arrives in Pakistan, Calls Visit ‘a New Beginning’

By Omer Farooq Khan for The Times of India

Indian external affairs minister S M Krishna, who arrived in Islamabad on Wednesday, said that he is on a mission to restore trust and increase confidence between the two countries.

“We hope to discuss all issues of mutual interest and concern that can contribute to restoring trust and building confidence in our bilateral relationship,” Krishna told journalists as he arrived here.

During his three-day visit, Krishna will hold talks with his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Thursday and will also meet President Asif Ali Zardari and PM Yusuf Raza Gillani. S M Krishna looks forward seeking progress on the issue of terrorism being raised by the Indian home minister P Chidambaram with his Pakistani counterpart Rehman Malik last month in Islamabad.

“I also look forward to receiving feedback on the issues raised by our home minister (P Chidambaram) during his visit to Pakistan last month on our core concern of terrorism, particularly in the light of the discussions our home minister had in Pakistan in the context of interrogation of David Headley regarding the Mumbai terrorist attack,” he said.

Krishna described his visit as important as it marks a new beginning of journey to build a prosperous, friendly and cooperative relationship between the two countries.

India is committed to resolving all issues with Pakistan through peaceful dialogue based on mutual trust and confidence, Krishna said.

“I brought a message of peace and friendship from the people of India and we hope to undertake this voyage of peace, however long and arduous, jointly with the government and people of Pakistan,” he said.
Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has said that he will raise with Krishna the issue of alleged human rights in Jammu and Kashmir.

“We are approaching the meeting with a positive mindset,” Qureshi said.

The Krishna-Qureshi talks on Thursday will be the third major contact between the two countries in within a month.

Home minister Chidambaram conveyed India’s concerns and expectations on terrorism to Pakistani leadership last month when he visited Islamabad.

The Indian and Pakistani prime ministers met in April on the sidelines of a regional summit in Bhutan, which set in motion the process to revive suspended contacts at different levels of government.

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