NEW DELHI: India and Pakistan emerged on Thursday from their first official talks since the Mumbai attacks with a vague promise to keep in contact but no progress on their core disputes.
Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir met for three hours in New Delhi for talks seen as vital for regional stability and a key part of US war strategy in Afghanistan.
Rao described the meeting as “a first step towards rebuilding trust,” while Bashir said he was grateful for the occasion but expressed disappointment at India’s narrow focus on the need to combat insurgents in Pakistan.
“We have agreed to remain in touch,” Rao added, without offering any detail on where or when another meeting would take place.Mr Bashir complained that India’s focus on the Mumbai attacks was ‘unfair’ given Pakistan’s efforts to fight militancy and its own struggle against the Taliban and militants.
“We have suffered many, many hundreds of Mumbai’s. We have lost a great number of civilians,” Bashir said, before adding: “Pakistan does not believe that India should lecture us and demand Pakistan does this or that.
“That is not how inter-state relations are conducted.”
Rao rebuffed Pakistan’s request to resume a fully-fledged peace process, called the Composite Dialogue, which began in 2004 and seeks to resolve all outstanding issues between the rivals.
Bashir said that the gap between Pakistan and India was widening and he had not seen any substantial progress in his talks earlier in the day with his Indian counterpart.
Talking to the Pakistani media representatives at the Pakistan High Commission in the evening, he said: “Pakistan has given some suggestions and India has also submitted proposals during the meeting but I told them that Pakistan wants result-oriented and meaningful dialogue. There is no need of secretary-level talks if India remains stuck to its stand on outstanding issues.”
He said India’s attitude was untenable as it was sticking to its stand on issues including that of terrorism while Pakistan’s position was that this issue should not be allowed to hold talk’s hostage.
When asked whether there was a deadlock in talks, Bashir said he would not opt to use this word. “I cannot say whether these talks were successful or unsuccessful. Pakistan wants good neighbourly relationship with India and wants to engage New Delhi for meaningful and result-oriented talks.”
In reply to a question about the water issue, he said Pakistan had handed some documents to the Indian side and expressed the hope that India would consider them to resolve this issue under the Indus Basin Water Treaty.
He said Pakistan had informed the Indian side about the violation of Indus Basin Water Treaty, storage of water, India’s plan to build more dams, the Kishanganga hydel project, pollution in sources of water and glacier melting.
“Water is a very important issue for us and Pakistan wants constructive engagement with India.”
Bashir said he sought greater cooperation, including intelligence sharing, to effectively deal with terrorism.
Pakistan, he said, had taken up steps against suspects of Mumbai attacks and it would also look into three dossiers handed over by India containing names of some wanted persons.
He said Composite Dialogue process had made achievements, including that of cross-LoC trade and movement of Kashmiris, adding he told the Indian side that Kashmiris should be included in any future talks on Kashmir and this issue should be resolved for the sake of peace in nuclearised South Asia.
The foreign secretary said he also raised the Kashmir issue during his meeting with Indian National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon, adding that both countries were close to resolution of the Siachen and Sir Creek issues.
Answering a question about India’s reported involvement in fomenting trouble in Balochistan, Bashir said Pakistan had documentary proofs, including photographs, to this effect.
To a question, he said (Jamaatud Dawa leader) Hafiz Saeed did not speak for Pakistan and that Pakistan had taken legal and administrative measures to counter terrorism.