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Indian minister unsure when to meet counterpart for talks
Publication Date : 18-01-2013
Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid yesterday welcomed his Pakistani counterpart’s offer to hold talks to defuse the prevailing tensions between the two countries but suggested that the current atmosphere might need some more tweaking before they could meet.
“It is a positive step,” Khurshid said about Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar’s offer in an interview with CNN-IBN.
“What India has always maintained is that if there is a problem we have to resolve it amongst ourselves, between India and Pakistan. We cannot be hoping for or working towards finding somebody else to resolve our problems.”
He said it would take more than one statement or one response for ties to move forward. “You have to take a whole structure with you. It’s certainly something we have noted, something we’ll look at very carefully. And see what the next step can be.”
The minister’s inability to project the next steps could be prompted by the Congress party’s brainstorming session in Jaipur from today, which is to be headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and party president Sonia Gandhi.
A clear policy towards Pakistan, and a measured response to the Khar offer could be thus influenced by the exigencies of electoral politics. The Congress will have to weigh the pros and cons of being seen speaking the hard-line language of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of the electoral season that could begin any time.
Khar had called for talks with Khurshid, saying that continued tension along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir was not in the interest of South Asian peace.
Khurshid said India stood by its demands to Islamabad – asking for the perpetrator of the beheading of Lance Naik Hemraj to be brought to book.
“…we obviously stand by the content and the substance of what we believe is critical and crucial to what went wrong. And therefore obviously, addressing that will be a move towards putting it right,” he said.
Khurshid termed the peace on the LoC a “very positive development” and added that if the armed forces of the two sides are able to “contain it at their own level then it doesn’t create a larger political issue at the higher level”.
He declined to say if the Pakistani women cricketers would be allowed to play the World Cup in India.
“Let’s just take it one step at a time. I think we shouldn’t jump to either negatives or positives in a hurry. Let’s just take it one step at a time. If the situation normalises, if the situation is peaceful and normal, then many of these questions will disappear by themselves,” he said.
Asked if the commerce ministers of the two countries would meet later this month as scheduled, Khurshid said he had no information of the meeting being called off.
“Today, as I speak to you, I have no such information. Let us see. We take it one day at a time, one step at a time,” he said.
Ties between the two neighbours have been strained ever since the Jan 6 killing of a Pakistani soldier allegedly in firing by Indian troops.
Two days later, Pakistani soldiers were accused of brutally killing two Indian soldiers and beheading one of them, near the LoC.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had on Tuesday said there could not be “business as usual” with Pakistan following the barbaric killing of the two Indian soldiers, including the beheading of one.