Five-point Agenda for Talks

The Economic Times - - Pure Pol­i­tics -

Official sources told ET that the new PM had a five-point agenda for his talks with Sharif, one of the eight South Asian lead­ers in­vited to wit­ness Naren­dra Modi’s swear­ing-in cer­e­mony on Mon­day at Rash­tra­p­ati Bha­van. The prime min­is­ter “un­der­lined our con­cerns re­lated to ter­ror­ism” to Sharif, said For­eign Sec­re­tary Su­jatha Singh, who briefed the press af­ter the meet­ing. Both sides also stressed more ro­bust busi­ness links, Singh said. “There was dis­cus­sion on trade and we noted that we were fully ready to nor­malise trade and eco­nomic re­la­tions. Both prime min­is­ters ex­pressed their in­ter­est in hav­ing this done as early as pos­si­ble,” Singh said. Modi said the two coun­tries could move im­me­di­ately to­ward full trade nor­mal­i­sa­tion on the ba­sis of the Septem­ber 2012 road map. Trade be­tween the two coun­tries is at around $2.5 bil­lion, with In­dian ex­ports ac­count­ing for $1.75 bil­lion. Sharif, also a pro-busi­ness PM, said he saw the talks as a “his­toric op­por­tu­nity” to im­prove ties be­tween the South Asian coun­tries, which have fought three wars since In­de­pen­dence in 1947. “We should rid the re­gion of in­sta­bil­ity and in­se­cu­rity that has plagued us for decades. Con­se­quently, it is im­por­tant for us to work to­gether for peace, progress and pros­per­ity,” Sharif said in a state­ment.

It may be re­called that Modi had stressed that talks and ter­ror can­not go on hand in hand dur­ing his elec­tion cam­paign. Bharatiya Janata Party has of­ten ac­cused the for­mer Congress regime and ex-PM Man­mo­han Singh of be­ing soft on Pak­istan. “We want peace­ful and friendly re­la­tions with Pak­istan. How­ever, for such re­la­tions to pro­ceed, it is im­por­tant that ter­ror and vi­o­lence are brought to an end,” the for­eign sec­re­tary told re­porters af­ter the meet­ing.

Sharif told Modi that en­gag­ing in “ac­cu­sa­tions and counter-ac­cu­sa­tions would be counter-pro­duc­tive”, ac­cord­ing to the state­ment re­leased by Pak­istan. “My gov­ern­ment, there­fore, stands ready to dis­cuss all is­sues be­tween our two coun­tries, in a spirit of co­op­er­a­tion and sin­cer­ity.”

Singh said Modi con­veyed the mes­sage that Is­lam­abad must “abide by its com­mit­ment to pre­vent its ter­ri­tory and ter­ri­tory it con­trols be­ing used to stage ter­ror at­tacks on In­dia”.

He also told Sharif that the trial in Pak­istan of those ac­cused in the 2008 Mumbai ter­ror at­tacks was “too slow” and no ac­tion had been taken against the plot­ters. “We also ex­pect that nec­es­sary steps will be taken in the Mumbai ter­ror at­tack trial un­der­way in Pak­istan to en­sure speedy progress of the case and the con­vic­tion of those re­spon­si­ble,” Singh said. Re­gard­ing the at­tack on In­dia’s con­sulate in Heart, the Afghan gov­ern­ment had passed on in­for­ma­tion that showed the in­volve­ment of Pak­istan-based Lashkare-Taiba (LeT), the ter­ror­ist group also be­hind the Mumbai at­tack of 2008. A top gov­ern­ment source told ET that the US had also shared with In­dia in­puts about LeT’s role in last Fri­day’s at­tack on the Herat con­sulate that was con­strued as an at­tempt to de­rail In­dia-Pak­istan en­gage­ment in the wake of Sharif ’s trip to Delhi. In­dia’s for­eign min­istry had ear­lier said it be­lieved the at­tack was planned “be­yond the borders of Afghanistan”. The for­eign sec­re­tary in­di­cated that Da­wood Ibrahim also came up in the meet­ing that ex­ceeded the sched­uled time of 35 min­utes. How­ever, Singh said it would be in­ap­pro­pri­ate for her to pro­vide de­tails of what ex­actly was dis­cussed. Modi has ac­cepted an in­vi­ta­tion from Sharif to visit Pak­istan, the dates for which will be worked out. Ex­ter­nal Af­fairs Min­is­ter Sushma Swaraj was also with Modi for the bi­lat­eral in­ter­ac­tion. Af­ter the meet­ing, Sharif also called on Atal Bi­hari Va­j­payee, who was the prime min­is­ter when the Delhi-La­hore bus ser­vice was launched in 1999 by the gov­ern­ments they headed. The Pak­istan PM also met Bol­ly­wood per­son­al­i­ties Hema Malini, also a BJP MP, and her hus­band Dhar­men­dra.

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