Even as backroom parleys are on between Indian and Pakistani diplomats to prepare the ground for a meeting between the prime ministers of both the countries on the sidelines of the UN general assembly next week, one thing is certain – neither side expects a dramatic turnaround in the frosty ties.
A joint statement or a joint presser by the two leaders is most unlikely. There is even a “shade of uncertainty” over the meeting, according to sources familiar with the ongoing efforts. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif are both going to be in New York in from September 27.
The last joint statement between Indian and Pakistani PMs in Sharm el-Sheikh triggered a controversy in India for its alleged concessions to the neighbour.
The relations were just about mended in Thimpu in Bhutan during the Saarc summit in 2010, with Singh and then Pakistan PM Yusuf Raza Gilani — after a meeting — directing their foreign ministers and foreign secretaries to address the “trust deficit” that followed the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack.
The dialogue process resumed after that but relations have come under a great deal of strain since the beginning of 2013.
“What we could realistically hope for is something on the lines of what happened in Thimpu in 2010,” a source said, which would entail the PMs yet again committing to more efforts to improve relations.
After Thimpu, Singh met his Pakistan counterpart in Maldives for the next edition of the Saarc summit.
Both Gilani and former president Asif Ali Zardari visited India during the interim. Pakistan has been looking for positive gestures from India, complaining that New Delhi’s hostile posturing is making things difficult for Sharif domestically.
“Our PM will be asked, ‘what have you got from New York.’ India must take into account the fact that Pakistan has several political players. Thankfully, everyone is currently supporting better relations but India should reciprocate positive signals from our PM,” a senior Pakistani official told HT.
The “positive gestures” include the release of prisoners, India responding positively to Pakistan suggestions to strengthen mechanisms along the Line of Control and a visit by Singh. Rajiv Gandhi was the last Congress PM to visit Pakistan.
The last Indian PM to visit Pakistan was Atal Behari Vajpayee in 2003. Despite his desire for peace with Pakistan, Singh, born in Gah which is now in Pakistani Punjab, has not been able to visit the neighboring country during his nine years in power.in May 2008.
India had signed a $1.2 billion contract with the US in 2008 for buying six C-130J planes. India plans to place a follow-on order for six additional C-130Js.