India-Pak talks were in the pipeline for 6 months

New Delhi, February 11 (Agencies): Thursday’s announcement of a structured resumption of Indo-Pakistan dialogue was in the pipeline for nearly six months but came to fruition only at the Thimphu meeting between Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and her counterpart Salman Bashir four days ago. “This process has been gradual. A number of steps have been made to reengage, beginning in February last year with the meeting between the two Foreign Secretaries],” said highly placed sources. The breaking of ice in New Delhi was followed by another meeting between the two on Pakistani soil in June. This was followed by External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna travelling to Pakistan to confer with his counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi.
Though the aftermath of this interaction was an acrimonious press conference, the sources said this meeting and the two earlier rounds of Foreign Secretary-level talks had helped lay a basic framework of agreement between the two countries. “The momentum had built up steadily and at the United Nations General Assembly, we had hoped for a meeting between Krishna and Qureshi,” said the sources while maintaining that the “contours” had been worked out by this time. But the atmosphere at that time was not right for India to announce the beginning of dialogue because Pakistan was seen as ``going hammer and tongs” over Kashmir.
“We thought the timing was not right. But the spadework had been done over several months,” said the sources while admitting that both sides had deliberately kept expectations of an outcome low. “Our experience since the Agra summit in 2001 is that Indo-Pak relations are often a casualty of hype,” they explained. With the agreement reached during the 90 minutes of delegation-level talks in Thimphu, both Rao and Bashir decided against making the announcement till they had briefed their principals. While Rao met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday, Bashir called on Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani on Thursday before it was decided to simultaneously make public the understanding.
At the same time, the sources pointed to the initiative taken by the two Prime Ministers and referred to Rao’s observations in this respect: “Please remember that the two Prime Ministers met in Thimphu during the SAARC summit and it was as a result of their bilateral meeting that a decision was taken to seriously look at how we could reduce the trust deficit between the two countries and intensify dialogue”. “This is an expression of political will, the desire to intensify the process of dialogue with Pakistan. We have held it in both sides in abeyance for far too long. I don’t think it has created returns for either of us. I think it is a very pragmatic decision,” she had added.