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Pakistan must address our terror concerns

In an exclusive interview with Hindustan Times, external affairs minister SM Krishna talks about the road ahead in India, Pakistan dialogue process, issues that confront the relationship and how New Delhi intends to deal with them.

delhi Updated: Sep 05, 2012 00:25 IST
Jayanth Jacob

In an exclusive interview with Hindustan Times, external affairs minister SM Krishna talks about the road ahead in India, Pakistan dialogue process, issues that confront the relationship and how New Delhi intends to deal with them. The minister will be in Pakistan between September 7 and 9 to review the dialogue process and chat out the next steps in the talks with his counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar. Excerpts:

The resumed India-Pakistan dialogue process was aimed at reducing the trust deficit and normalising the ties between the two countries? As you prepare for your meeting with your counterpart in Islamabad to take stock of the ongoing talks, in your assessment, how fruitful this exercise has been?
Dialogue is the best way to resolve issues between two sides. We have travelled some distance since our bilateral dialogue was resumed in February 2011. There has been some progress in the area of economic and commercial cooperation and promotion of friendly exchanges, including people-to-people contacts. In other areas like terrorism, much more needs to be done and there are challenges that exist but that shouldn't deter us from talking about how to resolve these difficult issues.

What is next in the dialogue process? Are you upgrading the dialogue process into ministerial levels on more issues and areas of cooperation? Any time-bound targets you have in mind for improving the ties on various spheres?
I cannot prejudge the outcome of the meeting that I am going to have with my counterpart Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar. However, we remain committed to resolving all issues with Pakistan through a bilateral dialogue in an atmosphere free from terror and violence. At this stage, there is no proposal to raise the structured dialogue process to a ministerial level. In diplomacy, we cannot fix artificial timelines for such important and complex issues between two countries.

The Pakistan leadership has high praise for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh-for his vision for the region, his innovative approach towards dealing with India-Pakistan relationship. Are you hopeful that Prime Minister would be able to visit Pakistan this year? If Pakistan's so keen to host the prime minister, what they should do in terms of deliverables that's makes Indian prime minister to visit Pakistan possible?
The Prime Minister has been very clear on this issue. He has accepted the invitation to visit Pakistan at an appropriate time. He would like a well-prepared visit, which may have suitable outcomes.

We hear of so much about "suitable outcomes" that would warrant a PM visit to Pakistan? Why New Delhi insisting on big takeaways, considering there have been many Indian PM visits to Pakistan and we are still stuck on all the core issues? Or 26/11 Mumbai attack made things very difficult for when you think of Indian prime minister visiting Pakistan?
I don't think Prime Minister is making his visit conditional on any big takeaways as you call it. All he is saying is that for a visit of such importance the time and atmosphere has to be appropriate, and the visit has to be well prepared keeping outcomes in mind.

Pakistan says don't make the dialogue process conditional. Is the progress on dialogue conditional to Pakistan taking meaningful action in bringing the Mumbai attack plotters and minders to justice? Pakistan says they don't follow a conditional approach like putting J&K issue over all other issues?
In diplomacy, one does not set pre-conditions for dialogue. We are certainly not doing so ! You may be aware that under the resumed dialogue two rounds of Secretary level talks on various issues have been completed and I am going to Pakistan to review progress in the dialogue process with my Pakistani counterpart. However, we have consistently conveyed to Pakistan that for the dialogue to be meaningful, comprehensive and sustained, Pakistan must address our terrorism-related concerns, including on the Mumbai terror attacks case. This would go a along way in bridging the trust deficit and lead to eventual normalization of relations.

In retrospect, you think India could have allowed the judicial commission to cross-examine the witnesses of the Mumbai terror attack at the first place? The two countries have the same evidence act. It could have been a foregone conclusion that the report of a panel that didn't have the mandate to cross examine would be rejected by a court of law in Pakistan? Why did you then allow a commission at the first place and now Pakistan argues they agreed to send the panel in deference to Indian demands, despite knowing the outcome in advance?
It is not as simple as you are making it out to be. These are complicated legal issues in which the executive has to work within the confines of law and in consultation with all concerned.

It seems President Asif Ali Zardari is keen on the urgent resolution of the Siachen issue? Is India game on that considering it would be a great "take away" for him? And are you still following a step-by step approach to the dialogue process or do you think time has to come to address the core issues, which many would say, is necessary for restoring the trust between the two countries?
We are committed to resolving all outstanding issues between the two countries through dialogue. We are convinced that for the normalisation of relations between our two countries a step-by-step graduated approach is the most realistic one. Given the complexities of the issues involved, we have to move forward by tackling the 'doables' first and at the same time continuing with our sincere efforts to resolve the more intractable issues.

Are you open to the suggestion from Pakistan interior minister that both countries should step up cooperation on security matters? There were also suggestions on a joint investigation into the Mumbai attack case? Your response to them?
Under the Home/Interior Secretary level talks between India and Pakistan there is agreement on cooperation on security matters between our respective agencies. However, the challenge is to realize these agreements on the ground. The declared intention has to be matched by tangible action. In the past, we did not have a very good experience with the Joint Anti-terrorism Mechanism (JATM) that had been set up between the two countries and that is why it was not pursued. As for the Mumbai terror attacks case, we believe that we have given more than adequate evidence to Pakistan to enable them to bring all the perpetrators of the heinous crime to justice.

Sir, you come from a state where the India-Pakistan narrative is quite different from what it is this part of India. Has it helped you in dealing with the issue any different?
Our relationship with Pakistan is an Indian issue and cannot be looked at from a regional or provincial angle. I look at this issue from an Indian perspective.

How soon we are going to see an India, Pakistan cricket match?
That answer you should seek from BCCI and PCB (the cricket administrative bodes in India and Pakistan respectively)