The foreign ministers of India and Pakistan on Thursday may have sought to project before a global audience and their respective media that their much awaited talks were positive, constructive and meaningful it was anything but that. Going by the body language of both S M Krishna and Shah Mahmood Qureshi, and the pointed, at times, aggressive questions asked by the media, it was plain and simple -- disastrous and awful.
Here is why? For starters, the press conference was to begin at about 1230 hrs Pakistan time, but commenced nearly eight hours later, leaving media persons on either side tired, anxious, exasperated and indulging in rumor and banter about possible pluses and minuses of the talks. When it actually started at around 2030 hrs Pakistan time, it seemed initially to be going according to script, but as it progressed, it went beyond the prescribed format and descended into a virtual free-for-all.
The last question of the press conference, which continued further, said it all. An Indian journalist asked Pakistan Foreign Minister Qureshi "We are talking about taking the dialogue process (between India and Pakistan) ahead. In this scenario, Hafiz Saeed's anti-India tirade is affecting the environment was this issue discussed? In what appeared to be a measured response, Qureshi said: "We discussed it. Incidentally, the minister (referring to India's S M Krishna) raised the question that he was concerned about hate speeches that incite people, and that we should avoid them. I do agree that both sides need to create an enabling environment, and not let the climate of engagement be vitiated by these speeches, should refrain from negative propaganda against each other.
At this point, Qureshi changes tack, and takes potshots at Indian officialdom, suggesting that the interaction between the two delegations was not all hunky dory. He said: "When you point out to Saeed's speech, or speeches, let me draw your attention to the Indian Home Secretary's (G K Pillai) statement. The dialogue which was reported in all Pakistani papers.. Tell me, to what extent it has helped? We were of the opinion that it was uncalled for In effect, the Pakistan Foreign Minister was equating Indian Home Secretary G K Pillai, a veteran law-abiding civil administrator with nearly four decades of experience with Saeed, a man with alleged, if not certain, terrorist links and antecedents. It maybe recalled that Pillai had cited the information provided by accused Lashkar-e-Tayiba recruit David C Headley regarding the involvement of Pakistan's spy agency the Inter-Services Intelligence--and the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed in the 26/11 attack during his interrogation in Chicago by the FBI and Indian investigators. Pakistan said it was disappointed with Pillai's remarks and its timing, as it was delivered on the eve of the foreign minister-level talks.