Govt believes it’s best to keep talking with ‘plotter’ Pak

There are many in the Indian establishment who believe the government is wasting its time engaging with Pakistan without Islamabad doing its bit to crack down on terror outfits operating from its soil.

This view is being reinforced by Anti-Terrorism Squad revelations about a planned terror attack on major installations in Mumbai and the fact that one of those arrested spoke about being trained in Pakistan.

But increasingly, the government believes that it is best to keep dialogue betweenIndia and Pakistan intact, despite the fact that the last round of preliminary talks between foreign secretaries yielded little.

“If these reports are true, there is even more reason why India and Pakistan must talk,” said a senior official who did not wish to be identified. “Not talking is childish,’’ the official said.

A fact which India does not wish to admit is the international community is keen that the two nuclear-armed countries remain engaged for stability in the region. There is always the fear that war between the two may result in one party pushing the nuclear button. But even more important, the US and Nato now need Pakistan’s help in stabilising Afghanistan.

The idea is not to distract the Pakistan military with concerns about its eastern front.

Pakistan is now interested in the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan meeting to announce the composite talks. Prime minister Manmohan Singh has taken a major risk in deciding to engage with Pakistan after being badly bruised by the Sharm-el-Sheikh joint statement.

But the prime minister is keen that talks should continue, even if it does not result in any major breakthrough. Engagement between the former USSR and the US continued through the Cold War and even during the Cuban missile crisis. The US and China have had many problems but once they began talking, the dialogue has continued even at a time when ties had been strained.

So though the home ministry will continue to snipe and point fingers at Pakistan, the government is likely to keep the door open for negotiations. A meeting at the highest political level is likely when prime minister Manmohan Singh travels to the US for the nuclear summit called by president Obama in April. The Pakistani prime minister is also attending.

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