Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission
It was a meeting that lasted less than an hour, with a tense, photo-op grip and grin on the sidelines of a summit meeting in Russia. But as the first meeting between India’s prime minister, Manmohan Singh, and Pakistan’s president, Asif Ali Zardari, since the terrorist attacks in Mumbai last year, the brief encounter was freighted with expectations of a fresh opening between the countries.
Mr. Zardari flashed his customary broad grin for the cameras, but Mr. Singh had only his usual tight smile and terse words to offer.
“I am happy to meet you, but my mandate is to tell you that the territory of Pakistan must not be used for terrorism,” Mr. Singh told Mr. Zardari when they met before the meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a regional group of nations, in Yekaterinburg, Russia, Reuters reported.
Yet beneath the frosty surface and well beyond the for-the-cameras pleasantries, a slow but perceptible thaw between the countries has been taking place.
Former senior diplomats close to the foreign policy establishment here say that back-channel negotiations on Kashmir — the contested border territory that is the central dispute between the nations — are set to begin again, something the United States has quietly urged…
In his first address to Parliament since being reappointed as prime minister following his party’s big election victory in May, Mr. Singh appeared to open the door to new talks, saying India would meet Pakistan “more than halfway,” if Pakistan took concrete steps to combat militant groups operating in its territory.
In addition, he and Mr. Zardari said they would meet again on the sidelines of a summit meeting in Egypt next month to talk about the results of a meeting between India’s and Pakistan’s foreign secretaries about terrorism.
Taken together, these developments point to a resumption of some sort of talks sooner rather than later. Such talks could help ease tensions and aid stability in the region — something that would serve the interests of both India and the United States as Pakistan’s weak civilian government struggles against a resurgent Taliban.
So, they broke the ice. Better that neighboring countries should negotiate over doing business with each other – decide common interests as shared interests – than perpetuate hatreds leftover in no small part from the decades of colonial rule they both suffered.