"Both Prime Ministers recognized that dialogue is the only way forward. Action on terrorism should not be linked to the Composite Dialogue process and these should not be bracketed. Prime Minister Singh said that India was ready to discuss all issues with Pakistan, including all outstanding issues."--- From the joint statement issued by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani on July 16,2009, at the end of their talks at Sharm-el-Sheikh in Egypt.
" The two Prime Ministers decided to ask their Foreign Ministers and Foreign Secretaries to first discuss the modalities of restoring trust and confidence in bilateral ties. That would pave the way for talks on all issues of mutual concern. We don't have to be stuck with nomenclatures. This does the relationship no good. Dialogue is the only way forward to open channels of communications and restore trust and confidence.....They agreed to assess the current state of affairs and then to start afresh on the way forward. The focus is on charting a course forward so that the searchlight is on the future and not on the past."---From the remarks made by Mrs.Nirupama Rao, India's Foreign Secretary, at the end of the talks between the two Prime Ministers at Thimpu in Bhutan on April 29,2010.
From the above quotes relating to the meetings of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with Pakistani Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani at Sharm-el-Sheikh in July last and at Thimpu on April 29,2010, it is evident that Dr.Manmohan Singh has once again conceded at Thimpu as he had done at Sharm-el-Sheikh Pakistan's point of view that India's dissatisfaction over the perceived lack of action by Pakistan against the "terror machine" in Pakistan as the Foreign Secretary put it should not be allowed to stand in the way of a resumption of the dialogue on other issues of importance. The terrorist strike by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) in Mumbai in November, 2008, should not be allowed to continue to cast its shadow over the future relations between the countries. That is the meaning of the remark of the Foreign Secretary that the searchlight should be on the future and not on the past. While India will continue to press Pakistan for action against the LET and the Pakistan-based conspirators now facing trial before a Pakistani anti-terrorism court for their involvement in the 26/11 terrorist strike, it will no longer link this to the question of the resumption of the dialogue on all issues of mutual concern.
2. Having succeeded in making Dr.Manmohan Singh de-link the terrorism issue from the dialogue issue, Pakistan is now trying to change the very nature of the approach on the terrorism issue by projecting it as a global issue and not just a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan. During his interaction with the Pakistani media at Islamabad after returning from Thimpu, Mr.Shah Mehmood Quereshi, the Pakistani Foreign Minister, has sought to downgrade the priority attached to the terrorism issue. "The Hindu" of May 1,2010, has reported as follows: : "As for India's concern about terrorism, his counter was that it was a global concern and would be best addressed collectively."
3. Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee, former Prime Minister, had made it clear during his meeting with Pervez Musharraf at Islamabad in January,2004, that the terrorism issue was the core issue for India and that progress on other issues of interest to Pakistan would depend on the progress on the terrorism issue. At the Havana meeting in September,2006, Musharraf succeeded in removing this linkage by making Dr.Manmohan Singh agree that the terrorism issue was of common concern to both India and Pakistan. It ceased to be a core issue of exclusive concern to India.
4. At Sharm-el-Sheikh as well as at Thimpu, Mr.Gilani has succeeded in downgrading the primary importance of the terrorism issue and now Mr. Quereshi has proceeded a step further by projecting it as a global issue and not a bilateral issue. What, in fact, he has said is, let the bilateral dialogue focus on issues of concern to Pakistan and let the terrorism issue be dealt with multilaterally in appropriate fora.
5. Dr. Manmohan Singh has repeatedly failed to project the Pakistan State-sponsored terrorism as the core concern of India which has to be addressed first before there can be progress on other issues.His over-keenness for a dialogue with Pakistan and his repeated failure to counter the Pakistani strategy of playing down the importance of the terrorism issue are not serving India's interests. They are strengthening the impression in the minds of the civilian and military leaders in Pakistan that it can sponsor any act of terrorism against Indian nationals and interests in the Indian territory or Afghanistan and get away with it.
6. Unless the Pakistani leadership is disabused of this impression through appropriate political, diplomatic and covert actions, our nationals will continue to bleed at the hands of Pakistan-sponsored terrorists. No one is against the resumption of a comprehensive dialogue with Pakistan, but the conditions under which the talks are to be resumed should protect our nationals and our core concerns. One does not have the impression this is being done. ( 1-5-2010)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: email@example.com )