India ready to give Pakistan ‘benefit of doubt’

SYDNEY: India is prepared to give historic rival Pakistan “the benefit of the doubt” as the two countries strive for peace, Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid has said.

AFP quoted an interview with The Australian newspaper published Monday in which Khurshid has admitted the relationship betweebn the two nuclear powers was fraught.

“We talk to Pakistan periodically and in terms of personal gestures we receive great warmth,” he said.

“But the on-the-ground reality and the results of our meetings are very disappointing.”

However, with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif last month vowing to go the “extra mile” to make peace with India, Khurshid said Delhi would take him at his word.

“Pakistan has a lot of very, very difficult issues to deal with at home,” he was quoted as saying. “Our view is that we should give them time, not at our cost, of course, but that we should give them the benefit of the doubt. When Mr Nawaz Sharif says he wants peace and good relations with India, we take him at his word.”

But with recent shootings at the border among the heaviest since a ceasefire agreement in 2003, Khurshid pointed out that Pakistan has not yet followed through on its promise of top-level military meetings to sort out better arrangements in Kashmir.

“If they can address the dismantling of the infrastructure of terrorism, that would be a good start,” he told the newspaper.

Separatists meeting Pak leaders since NDA rule: Shinde

Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said Kashmiri separatist leaders have been meeting Pakistani leaders on Indian soil since the days of NDA when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister.

“They (Kashmiri separatists) have been meeting (Pakistani leaders) since 1999. When their Prime Minister came, then also they met. They met in October 2000 also. In 2001 also they met. They again met in 2003 and in March 2004 also,” he said.

He was responding to a question on BJP president Rajnath Singh’s criticism that UPA government had committed a “diplomatic blunder” by allowing Aziz to meet separatists on Indian soil and demanded that the talks be stopped.

“Even in their period also the Kashmiri separatists have met (Pakistani leaders). Precedent has been set,” he said.

The Home Minister, however, said the government would see what could be done in the future in this regard.

Those who met Aziz at the Pakistan High Commission here include moderate faction of Hurriyat led by Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, JKLF Chief Yaseen Malik, hardline Hurriyat Chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani and leaders of Dukhtaran-e-Millat.

The Mirwaiz yesterday said that Hurriyat had been meeting with Pakistani leaders during the NDA regime under Vajpayee and his deputy LK Advani. (Agencies)

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