New power balance in Pak led to thaw
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s decision to meet Yousuf Raza Gilani halfway to the talks table in Bhutan this week was guided by the assessment that the Pakistani prime minister could speak with much more authority due to the recent constitutional amendment in his country as well as the need to give the Pakistani leadership an incentive to start acting on India’s concerns.
Gilani is understood to have referred to the 18th constitutional amendment during his hour-long one-to-one meeting with Singh, pointing that he felt “empowered”.
The amendment stripped President Asif Ali Zardari of his powers to sack Gilani, dissolve Parliament and appoint the service chiefs.
The ice-breaking meeting on the sidelines of the Saarc summit saw the two prime ministers come up with a new template for dialogue, beginning the process at the foreign secretary and foreign ministers’ level, entrusting them with the task of restoring trust between the two countries.
From India’s perspective, “credible action” against terrorists such as Hafiz Saeed, a sincere attempt to punish the 26/11 accused and steps to dismantle the terrorist machinery that produces and pushes terrorists into India would be a prime parameter.
“We still have to see what effect this (dialogue) will have on Pakistani politics,” an official source said, pointing out that New Delhi was mindful of the domestic constraints that Gilani would have to deal with.
Delhi had also noted that Gilani had been careful in his statements over the past year.
In fact, the positive fallout of the Bhutan meeting was in evidence on Friday when Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi blamed authorities of “passing the buck” and exaggerating differences with India over the sharing of river water.