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Experts praise PM's public diplomacy with Pakistan

Foreign policy and strategic experts have welcomed PM Manmohan Singh's deft use of public diplomacy in Yekaterinburg to put Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari on the back foot over terror attacks from across the border.

india Updated: Jun 17, 2009 15:38 IST

Foreign policy and strategic experts have welcomed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's deft use of public diplomacy in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg to put Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari on the back foot over terror attacks from across the border.

According to noted strategic affairs analyst K Subrahmanyam, "it was a well thought out and well crafted move".

"You must understand that he chose his words very carefully. Manhmohan Singh could have said that you must stop terrorism, but instead he said that he had a limited mandate, so therefore, he was speaking on behalf of Parliament and the nation after the elections," Subrahmanyam told IANS.

On Tuesday, Manmohan Singh had met Zardari on the sidelines of the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Yekaterinburg that both leaders attended as observers.

Immediately after shaking hands and before the media could leave the room, Manmohan Singh told Zardari that India could take forward the peace process only if Pakistan takes credible action against terrorists who have been targeting India from its territory.

"Excellency, I am pleased to meet you. But I have a limited mandate to tell you that the Pakistani territory can't be used for acts of terror against India," Manmohan Singh said at the first meeting of the two leaders after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks that India has blamed on elements operating from Pakistan.

Zardari looked slightly flustered, but soon the two leaders settled down for one-on-one talks.

Former foreign secretary Lalit Mansingh described Manmohan Singh's statement as a "smart piece of diplomacy".

"We got so much out of the Pakistanis and the message has been registered fully. The Pakistanis tried to get the resumption of the eight-point dialogue and we have managed to convince them of our one-point dialogue which is (countering) terrorism," Mansingh said.

Uma Singh of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) also praised the prime minister's deft move.

"It is a pragmatic policy to talk to Pakistan, but at the same time, we have given a message rigidly and firmly, that we mean what we say," said Singh, a professor of South Asian studies at JNU's School of International Studies.

She said that the Pakistan cannot anymore take a "nonchalant attitude" to India's demands after Manmohan Singh delivered his strong message.

Uma Singh pointed out that Zardari's earlier comments on closer ties with India were aimed at a large audience in Pakistan.

"Civil society is growing there, and during my visits this year and last year, they acknowledged that India's terrorism problem does emanate from Pakistan. They are not naive or gullible," Uma Singh maintained.

Manmohan Singh and Zardari agreed that the foreign secretaries of the two countries would hold talks centred on cross-border terrorism and report to them about their progress before they meet again on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit July 15-16 at the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm-el-Sheikh.

Subramaniam felt that the "basic point (of these meetings) is to make Pakistan accountable".

"It is consistent with what the prime minister has said in parliament that if the Pakistanis show any progress, then they will meet them half way," added Mansingh.

Manmohan Singh had told parliament in a policy speech June 9 that India was willing to meet Pakistan "more than half way" if the Pakistani leadership takes strong action to prevent terorrism directed against India.

"We expect the government of Pakistan to take strong, effective and sustained action to prevent terrorism directed against India and use every means at its service to bring to justice the perpetrators of terror attacks, including the Mumbai attacks," Manmohan Singh had said.

First Published: Jun 17, 2009 15:36 IST