Singh Offers Conditional Talks On Kashmir

25 November 2009
The Dawn

Washington DC: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has offered conditional talks to Pakistan to resolve all outstanding issues between the two countries, including Kashmir, and has also assured Islamabad that New Delhi does not want Pakistan to fail. ‘We are ready to pick up the threads of the dialogue, including on issues related to Jammu and Kashmir,’ Singh told a leading US think-tank, the Council on Foreign Relations. ‘For this to happen, Pakistan must make a break with the past, abjure terrorism and come to the table with good faith and sincerity.’ Separately, Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao told journalists that Singh, during his talks with Obama administration, raised the issue of US military supplies and funds to Pakistan and conveyed concerns over the diversion. ‘Such equipment have been used against us in the past and we continue to have such worries. We leave it to the US to reflect fully on this issue,’ she said. In his address to the think-tank, Singh noted that India and Pakistan had made considerable progress on the road to a durable and permanent settlement of all outstanding issues before the Mumbai attacks stalled the dialogue. He expressed the hope that the two countries could together move forward to write a new chapter in the history of the subcontinent. Referring to the first anniversary of the Mumbai attacks of Nov 26, 2008, Singh said: ‘The trauma of that attack continues to haunt us. Terrorism poses an existential threat to the civilised world and must be defeated. We should not harbour any illusions that a selective approach to terrorism, tackling it in one place while ignoring it in others, will work.’ Singh told the American audience that it was in the interest of both India and the US that those behind the Mumbai attacks be brought to book. Richard Haass, who heads Washington’s Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars, asked Singh if he believed that what happened in Afghanistan would be decisive for Pakistan’s future as well. ‘There is no doubt in my mind that if the Taliban and the Al Qaeda group of people succeed in Afghanistan, that would have catastrophic results for the security and stability, not only of Pakistan, but for the security and stability of all of South Asia. And please don’t forget we are talking about nearly 1.8 billion people living in South Asia,’ said the Indian prime minister. ‘Also, I believe it will also affect the course of evolution in the Middle East as well as in Central Asia and maybe, I think, beyond, I think, these regions as well.’ Haass then engaged Singh in a series of questions on Pakistan. ‘When you look at Pakistan and its difficulties, do you harbour concerns that Pakistan could fail? And if Pakistan were to fail, could India succeed?’ he asked. ‘Well, we don’t want Pakistan to fail. The emergence of democracy in Pakistan is something we welcome,’ said the Indian prime minister. But he claimed that those terrorist groups that once were active only in Fata, now ‘have a grip over several parts of mainland Pakistan’. ‘If that process is not controlled, I think it has phenomenal consequences for the security and stability of Pakistan as well as our own security,’ he warned. Haass then reminded Mr Singh that after the Mumbai attacks he resisted internal pressure to retaliate militarily against Pakistan and asked him if it was the right decision and if such an attack were to happen again how he would react. ‘Let me say, there was enormous pressure on me at that time. I resisted that pressure, and I think the decisions that I and my government took was, on balance, the right decision,’ said Singh. ‘As regard to the future, I hate to speculate. I sincerely hope that that sort of eventuality does not arise.’ But to avoid such an eventuality, the world community had an obligation to impress upon Pakistan to curb the power of the terrorist groups, he added. ‘Pakistan has done something to control the activities of the Taliban terrorist groups in federally administered areas. But it is our sincere belief that it has not acted as it should have acted in dealing with terrorist elements that are using their energies to target our country.’ Singh also urged the world community to pressure Pakistan to bring to book all those responsible for the Mumbai attacks.