Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi is hopeful that an effective counter-terrorism strategy will be devised during his Indian counterpart’s visit to Pakistan next week. Speaking in Multan, Qureshi once again expressed grief on the Jaipur carnage and condemned the loss of lives in the serial blasts.
The new foreign minister stressed on Wednesday that Pakistan and India enjoyed good relations and talks would be held with External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee on May 21. Mukherjee, who will land in Islamabad on May 20, will meet the entire spectrum of Pakistan’s leadership from PML (N) chief Nawaz Sharif to President Pervez Musharraf. This includes PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani. “It is first contact time and Mr. Mukherjee would like to meet everybody in the Pakistani establishment,” an Indian official said.
Mukherjee’s visit was originally brilliantly timed, giving enough time for the PPP-PML (N) coalition to settle down. It’s another matter that he will now land smack in the middle of a huge crisis in the coalition.
Ahead of this key visit, the Indian Foreign Office has been restrained in its remarks after the Jaipur blasts. Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon was careful not to point a finger at Pakistan during his briefing in New Delhi on Wednesday.
The Dawn noted approvingly in an editorial on Thursday that no Indian government official has blamed Islamabad for the crime, something which could have affected the composite dialogue process. “The motives behind the crime could include another bid to sour India-Pakistan relations or perhaps to discourage foreign tourists by targeting one of India’s tourist attractions,” the paper added.
India, clearly, will be looking at the “deliverables” that can be expected from the PPP-PML (N) coalition: who are the long-term players it will have to deal with? Essentially, these talks are to review the “progress” made in the fourth round of composite dialogue between the two countries.