by Syed Moazzam Hashmi
ISLAMABAD, July 16 (Xinhua) -- The talks between foreign ministers of Pakistan and India on Thursday in Islamabad were aimed at restoring trust and confidence but ended without breakthrough. They agreed to remain in touch to pave the way for revival of "composite dialogue" suspended after the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
The first foreign ministerial talks between the two neighboring nuclear rivals after an impasse of 18 months concluded late Thursday evening with "no ice melt."
Progress had been expected on issues of prisoners, visa and people-to-people contact but the two foreign ministers at their joint press conference did not give a "good news" as was expected.
Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that all issues were discussed and both sides agreed to continue dialogue.
"Krishna wasn't coming here for a breakthrough," former Pakistani ambassador Akram Zaki commented, emphasizing "quiet diplomacy" as means to discuss and resolve all issues.
Keeping the blame game going, both countries assured each other of cooperation on contentious issues. "Both sides have to work towards the resolution of issues," Qureshi said.
"We want peaceful, stable and prosperous Pakistan," Krishna reciprocated amid a tension filled and emotionally charged press briefing.
Local analysts observed a basic violation of bilateral dialogue as India tried to dominate the agenda of the talks. It wanted to stick to the issue of terrorism where Pakistan was handicapped in many ways, even if it was determined to deal with it.
The Indian attitude was governed by two motives, analysts believed. It wanted to isolate Pakistan in the international community and press Pakistan to accept its conditions on certain controversial issues.
Qureshi told media on Friday that India is not mentally prepared for the bilateral talks on outstanding issues.
"Although the dialogue practically failed, but can't term it that way because there was an agreement on keeping the talk process going," analyst Hasan Askari commented.
Defense analyst Shahzad Chaudhry said it's a process that takes its due course of time.
The bilateral dialogue were halted after November 26, 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack that killed 166 people, which India blamed on Pakistan-based militants.
"It is not possible to resolve major issues in near future," Askari said, suggesting that a jump start can begin with resolution of smaller issues that can be resolved comparatively easily, such as Siachen glacier border, which has already been surveyed by both countries.
There is a clear-cut difference on priorities and perspectives between India and Pakistan.
"A joint investigation on Mumbai carnage by India and Pakistan indicates external pressure," Arshi Saleem, senior research analyst with the Institute of Regional Studies (IRS) in Islamabad commented, referring to U.S. pressure on Indian government to engage in dialogue with Pakistan.
"So that Pakistan, with a peaceful eastern border, should focus on its western front" in the rugged and troubled tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, as a front-line ally in the U.S.-led war against terror, Arshi Saleem emphasized.
Whereas Pakistan wants to restrict Indian involvement in Afghanistan to economic development and not in political and security affairs, which makes it more comfortable, she observed.
- Indo-Pak ministers conclude peace talks 2010-07-16