NEW YORK: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who met his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif here despite strong criticism from opposition back home, wants to “trust” the new Pakistan prime minister and give him a chance to “walk the talk” on stopping ceasefire violations and terror activities against India.
Stating this, Indian external affairs minister Salman Khurshid underlined that while “seeking to trust” Sharif, India will “verify” the actions on the ground before taking any step further on resuming the stalled dialogue process.
In an interview here, Khurshid said the “bacteria” of anti-India terrorism rooted in Pakistan must be eliminated whether “it is state-sponsored, state-controlled, state-mandated or state-encouraged” and should not be allowed to grow and destroy the “sapling” of “creative constructive relationship”
“Our Prime Minister wants to give him (Sharif) a chance, wants to trust him. But as he (Singh) has said we have to verify,” said Khurshid while defending Singh’s meeting with Sharif despite opposition BJP contending that it was not the right time as Pakistan was engaging in ceasefire violations.
Noting that Sharif has taken over as prime minister of Pakistan recently, he said there is a “reasonable element of hope that this discussion will not go waste and it will lead to some improvement and something concrete in the future.”
At the hour-long meeting with Sharif yesterday on the sidelines of UNGA, Singh made it clear that ending ceasefire violations on the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir is a pre-condition for resumption of bilateral dialogue.
Khurshid, who was part of the Indian delegation, said Singh had “free, frank and friendly discussion” with Sharif and flagged every issue of concern, including Mumbai attack, Jamaat-ud-Dawa and its chief Hafiz Saeed, and LoC firing during the meeting.
Rejecting BJP’s opposition to the meeting, Khurshid said, “We owe it to our nation. Trust but verify. You can turn it (the statement) around. We can verify and then trust. Now, I think, what our Prime Minister has done is that he has kept verify and trust in parallel.”
He said Singh made it clear that “while we trust you (Sharif), we must continue to verify.”
This is why, he said, “Our PM has chosen among various alternatives that has been suggested by Pakistan. He has preferred his own view which is — now this should be done at the level of DGMO. And the good thing in Pakistan’s acceptance.”
He did not elaborate about the suggestions made by Pakistan but sources said they had wanted a committee of Foreign Secretaries to be set up to address LoC violations issue.
Khurshid’s attention was drawn to some positive statements made by Sharif about the relationship after taking over as Prime Minister in May and asked whether India wanted him to “walk the talk” on it.
“Absolutely. There is no question about it. He has to walk the talk. The real taste of the pudding is in eating,” he replied.
Talking about the take-away from the meeting, he said it is to ensure that “temperatures” are kept at the “right level for the sapling of the bilateral relationship.”
When asked about the fate of the dialogue process which is at a standstill in the wake of ceasefire violations, Khurshid said the talks were suspended “because of circumstances. It was not destroyed.”
He said dialogue can be resumed only after “looking at how much success we can get on the ground in terms of peace and tranquility (on the LoC) and what reports we get from the DGMO.”
He highlighted that while the main dialogue was at a “standstill”, a “lot of other things” are continuing. These include talks over trade and water issues.
Khursheed said Manmohan Singh told US President Barack Obama about cross border terrorism to let him know “his true feelings” and concerns and it was not in the form of a complaint, Khurshid said on Monday.