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'Great victory for Pakistan, not defeat for India'

By Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi
July 16, 2009 21:15 IST
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While assessing the outcome of the meeting of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on the sidelines of the Non Aligned Summit in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, Hamid Mir, political editor of the Pakistan-based Geo television channel, told, "It was a great victory for Pakistan but not a defeat for India. Surely, India gave concessions to Pakistan keeping in mind a long term goal. I think Dr Singh has made a sacrifice to gain bigger things in future. We understand he has taken a risk by going against public opinion in India. Dr Singh has shown some flexibility."

When asked what could be those 'big' gains, Mir says, "Both countries foreign secretaries will meet in New York in September and also intelligence chiefs of the Inter Services Intelligence and Research and Analysis Wing will meet. One will have to wait for an announcement from the Pakistan side. Surely, Pakistan will have to give something substantial to satisfy Indian public opinion when India has given so many concessions today."

The two leaders seem to share a good personal rapport too. Gilani promised to send Dr Singh mangoes from Multan as a gift.

Talking about the joint statement issued after the meeting, Mir says, "History has created today because for the first time Baluchistan has been mentioned in the joint statement. Pakistan was able to internationalise the untold story of Baluchistan."

He said Kashmir was not mentioned in the statement but India agreed to talk on all 'outstanding issues'. When India insisted that mention of the Mumbai terror attacks must be inserted in the JS, the issue of India's alleged covert involvement in Baluchistan was brought on table by Pakistan. It was kind of a balancing act. Mir says that Pakistan Foreign Secretary F S Salaman Bashir told his Indian counterpart Shiv Shankar Menon that they have evidence of Indian involvement in fermenting disturbances in Baluchistan from its consulates in Jalalabad and Khandhar in Afghanistan.

When asked why and how the Indian stand changed dramatically in Egypt when compared with its stand during talks between Singh and President Asif Ali Zardari in Yekaterinburg, Russia on June 16, Mir responded, "According to our information the meeting of India and Pakistan foreign secretaries in the last 48 hours in Egypt has been crucial. Pakistan's Bashir took a tough stand against Menon. Bashir told Menon if you bracket the Mumbai attack with the comprehensive talks between the two countries then there is no possibility of a joint statement."

The Pakistan side accepts that the Indian stance in Russia was quite hard and then they were bracketing the dialogue process with the Mumbai attacks.

Mir, who is part of the media entourage accompanying Gilani, says, "India has changed its stance but we don't see it as a win or a defeat. "

When asked how Pakistan side sees their gain in today's events, Mir said, "Pakistan impressed upon India that if you continue dictation or blackmail then dialogue will break down. Then extremists will have an upper hand. Zardari was beaten up badly in diplomacy in Russia but Gilani will go back home with pride and go up in his people's esteem."

The marathon meetings between both leaders and the two delegations show that the atmospherics were better in Egypt than in Russia.

Gilani told the Pakistan media that, "Dr Singh told me that I am not scared. I am ready to discuss all issues."

The one-on-one meeting between Singh and Gilani started on a right tone.

Gilani told the Pakistani media that he told Dr Singh in Punjabi, "You are my elder. I respect you. I expect you to treat me as a younger brother. So give me some concessions."

He reminded Dr Singh that he belongs to an area near his native place in Punjab province of Pakistan. "Aap usi ilake se hai," Gilani fondly reminded Dr Singh.

Mir says the Indian media or people should not see the Egypt talks in isolation. It is the question of continuity of talks and a process to reach peace between the two countries.

The Pakistani media, as expected, claims that the new thaw between India and Pakistan could have been influenced by United Sattes Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also.

Gilani had done a better homework than Zardari. In his delegation he had members of Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N as well. Before the meeting between the two prime ministers, Anusha Rahman from the PML-N spoke with Dr Singh for some 8-10 minutes. She assured Dr Singh that talks with Gilani were backed by the opposition parties of Pakistan.

Gilani generously shared details of his talks with Pakistani journalists. Mir says, "When Gilani returns to Pakistan he will be able to claim that 'main India se apni bat manva kar laya hun.' (I was able to get concessions from India)." 

No senior officer from the ministry of external affairs in Egypt could be contacted from New Delhi for reaction to Gilani's talks with the Pakistan media.

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Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi