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Advani poser on Indo-pak talks
New Delhi, Feb 8 (IANS)
Published on 8 Feb. 2010 11:55 PM IST
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Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani Monday asked aloud if the government’s decision to start foreign secretary-level talks with Pakistan was the “upshot of a powerful nudge from Washington”. “The question people have been asking in a more straightforward manner is ... is its (India’s) latest U-turn on dialogue the upshot of a powerful nudge from Washington?” the former deputy prime minister wrote in his blog. The offer of dialogue, he pointed out, came despite the government’s earlier insistence on “steadfastly refusing to resume talks with Pakistan until Islamabad brings those behind the Mumbai attacks to justice.” “New Delhi’s sudden announcement last week that India was willing to hold foreign secretary level parleys with Pakistan has naturally made many political analysts in the country ask: is this the consequence of (Barack) Obama’s assertion being put into action?” writes Advani. Advani, an advocate of tough posture towards Pakistan, was alluding to an pre-election interview by Obama in which he hinted at appointing a special envoy for the Kashmir issue to resolve the India-Pakistan tensions. During the presidential campaign in 2008, Obama had said that “working with Pakistan and India to try to resolve the Kashmir crisis in a serious way” would be among the critical tasks of his administration if he was elected. Advani contended that India’s change of stand had led to gloating in Pakistan. He referred to Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s remarks boasting “gleefully that it was international pressure that had forced India to return to the negotiating table!” He reminded the government of the Feb 22, 1994 parliament resolution on Jammu and Kashmir that condemned Pakistan’s support to subversive activities in the state. “The country, the government as well as the world would do well to keep the above resolution in mind,” Advani said. Meanwhile, Pakistan says it wants to discuss Kashmir and other unresolved issues with India when the foreign secretaries of the two countries meet, possibly later this month. Pakistan had a “strong case” on several outstanding issues, including Kashmir and the sharing of river waters, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said at a gathering in his hometown Multan Sunday. At the same time, Qureshi took a hard line, pointing out that Pakistan had not knelt before India, which had now “sought talks” and a return to the negotiating table. “India had broken off the composite dialogue process and spoken of severing contacts with Pakistan. It has come to us and sought talks. We never kneeled before them and did not bow to their pressure,” Qureshi maintained. He also claimed India had tried to isolate Pakistan diplomatically but had failed to do so due to the “effective” policies pursued by Islamabad. Qureshi’s remarks come as Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India Shahid Malik is in Islamabad to discuss the two dates - Feb 18 or Feb 25 - proposed by India for the foreign secretary-level talks in New Delhi. Malik had on Friday met Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao to work out the modalities for the talks, at which New Delhi has indicated that it is ready to discuss all bilateral issues of concern. On its part, India has said it was premature to talk about resuming the composite dialogue at the present moment and made it clear to Pakistan that the proposed talks are part of “a step-by-step incremental approach” and that Islamabad should “do more” to address New Delhi’s concerns over cross-border terror. The foreign secretaries’ talks could be followed by meetings between the foreign ministers and prime ministers of the two countries on the sidelines of the SAARC summit in Thimphu in April. Qureshi also said he would hold meetings during the week to study the Indian proposal and finalise the agenda for the talks. India had frozen the composite dialogue process in the wake of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks that New Delhi blames on elements operating from this country. Pakistan admits that part of the Mumbai conspiracy was planned in this country. The trial has also begun here of six operatives of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terror group that India says masterminded the Mumbai carnage, that claimed the lives of 166 people, including 26 foreigners.

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