Reference to conditions for talks in joint statement reaffirms India’s position

Even as there has been hard talk by the government over the Pulwama terror attack, a reference to the need to create necessary conditions for resumption of dialogue between India and Pakistan in the joint statement issued during the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman indicated that talks continue to be an option if India’s conditions are met.

Some former diplomats who spoke to IANS said the reference in the statement issued late Wednesday reiterates India’s stated position on talks and nothing more could have been expected.

Former Ambassador to Iran K.C. Singh said the statement reflected “give and take” from both sides.

“It came too late at 10.30 p.m. Basically, you wanted something from Saudis and they wanted something from you. So, it’s give and take.”

He said India has always talked about the need for creating a conducive atmosphere for talks. “That’s what India says always. Since they (Pakistan) also referred to talks to, (Narendra) Modiji has to present his conditions for talks,” he said.

He, however, felt that the whole visit could have been handled differently.

Singh had also tweeted about the statement, saying it came too late “to fully limit the damage by Crown Prince MBS not condoling Pulwama martyrs or naming Pakistan”.

“Indian negotiators belatedly retrieved ground by inserting reference, though ‘states’ abetting terror for India means Pak and for Saudi Arabia, Iran,” he said.

“Why was joint statement so delayed, when normally it’s mostly finalised as leaders meet? Post joint press statements and MBS’ and Saudi FM’s dithering, it took great effort to tweak written joint statement and get a face-saver.”

In response to a tweet on the possibility of more attacks as long as Pakistan allows Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) to flourish, Singh said: “All the more reason why Saudi Crown Prince in Delhi needed to send a clear warning to Pakistan. Unfortunately, the Modi government appeared defensive and over-sensitive to Saudi sentiments.”

Vivek Katju, a former Secretary (West) in the External Affairs Ministry, said the reference to condition for talks with Pakistan reflects India’s position.

“This is India’s stand. It means that pre-condition, as far as we are concerned, is that talks and terrorism can’t go together. That is what it means. This is standard formulation. These are not either-or situations. It is reiteration. That’s how I look at it,” he said.

Former Ambassador to Nepal, Rakesh Sood said Saudi Arabia will play its balancing game and “we should know it”. Expecting more than that is quite unrealistic, he said.

The statement said the two sides stressed the importance of regional stability and good neighbourly relations.

It said that the Crown Prince appreciated consistent efforts made by Prime Minister Modi since May 2014 including his personal initiatives to have friendly relations with Pakistan.

“In this context, both sides agreed on the need for creation of conditions necessary for resumption of the comprehensive dialogue between India and Pakistan,” the statement said.

Both sides also called upon all states to reject the use of terrorism against other countries, dismantle terrorism infrastructures where they happen to exist and to cut off any kind of support and financing to the terrorists perpetrating terrorism from all territories against other states.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Crown Prince condemned in the strongest terms the terrorist attack in Pulwama last week in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed. Pakisan-based JeM has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Modi, in his speeches after the terror attack, has taken digs at Pakistan and given signals that the perpetrators would have to pay a heavy price.

IANS