The India-Pakistan foreign ministers’ meeting, which began amid great optimism in the morning, ended in tension and disagreement by evening.
SM Krishna and his counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi could only agree their talks were “frank and honest”, both countries wanted “friendly, cooperative relations,” and they would meet again at some unspecified point of time.
<b1>Both Indian and Pakistani officials had told media earlier in the day that talks were “going well” and progress was being made. But a noontime press conference was repeatedly postponed and eventually held only at eight at night.
Krishna and Qureshi made separate statements that sought to emphasize that their talks were part of an ongoing process that, given the “complex” relationship between the two countries, no one should expect quick results.
But it was obvious the two sides had failed to agree on anything, even the confidence-building measures regarding imprisoned fishermen and making the Line of Control more porous, which had been widely expected.
Pakistan reiterated previous statements that terrorism was a “common concern” and that the “mood” in Pakistan regarding this menace had changed.
There were reports that negotiations had gone askew because of New Delhi’s insistence that any joint agreement had to include something tangible on terrorism, no matter how small, from Pakistan. When that was not forthcoming, negotiations on other less contentious issues floundered.
Qureshi later complained about the lack of “flexibility” on the Indian side. The Pakistani foreign secretary, Salman Bashir, said the only thing to come from the ministers’ meeting was that Qureshi would visit India before the end of the year.
The momentum of engagement that Thimpu and the home ministers’ meeting had begun, was clearly stalled in Islamabad.