Krishna and Qureshi to meet on July 15
SM Krishna was expecting the call. And he was prepared for an invitation to visit Islamabad to meet his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi. So when Qureshi phoned on Tuesday, Krishna promptly agreed. Jayanth Jacob reports.delhi Updated: May 12, 2010 08:21 IST
SM Krishna was expecting the call. And he was prepared for an invitation to visit Islamabad to meet his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi. So when Qureshi phoned on Tuesday, Krishna promptly agreed.
The two ministers will meet in Islamabad on July 15 to take forward the peace process confi-gured by Prime Minister Manm-ohan Singh and Pakistan Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani in Thimpu recently.
"I look forward to my meeting with him and believe that our talks will help in bringing our countries closer together and addressing issues of mutual interest," Krishna said in a statement.
In Islamabad, Qureshi said the meeting with Krishna would be "a very important engagement and a very important step forward in our bilateral relations".
But he added the two countries would have to be vigilant against elements opposed to the peace process. "The challenges are that there can always be an element that could try and scuttle the process."
Relations between the two countries hit an all-time low after the 26/11 attacks in 2008 – Qureshi was in India then for talks – and have been limping back to normalcy through contacts at various world forums.
Krishna's visit to Islamabad would mark a major scaling up, as the first contact at the political level on each other's soil since the Mumbai attacks.
The foreign secretaries of the two countries met in Delhi in February for a meeting that was described as "all talk, no dialogue" and was marked by some sharp exchange of words.
During the 20-minute telephone call, Krishna accepted Qureshi's invitation setting off a series of high-level engagements to address the trust deficit and work out the modalities for the dialogue process between the neighbours.
Home Minister P Chidambram will travel to Islamabad on June 26 to attend the SAARC Home Ministers' conference.
Then, the two foreign secretaries will meet to finalise the agenda before the foreign ministers meet. Foreign
secretary Nirupama Rao is slated to visit Islamabad.
Indians officials will try to strike a middle path for the talks — a format to address "issues of mutual interests with primacy being placed on terrorism that is linked to peace, stability and economic development".
Their main challenge will be to keep Pakistan's main demand – composite dialogue – off the table, for now at least.
The phrase "composite dialogue" is often meant for discussing Jammu and Kashmir.
Though India doesn't mind discussing Kashmir, it doesn't want it on the agenda for now as it might look like it's giving away too much and too soon, and too happily.
The BJP is already a bit worried.
"What has happened to push the government towards talks…This accelerated pace of discussion needs explanation," said spokesperson Prakash Javdekar on Tuesday.
"The government had promised Parliament there would be no talks without credible evidence of Pakistan acting against terror. Has the government accepted Pakistan's position that talks and terror should be delinked?"
Krishna and his government will have to tread carefully.
(With PTI inputs)
First Published: May 11, 2010 08:48 IST