There was no major outcome from the hour-long meeting between the two Prime Ministers although it was announced that the Directors General of Military Operations (DGMOs) of the two countries have been tasked to come up with a clear plan to restore ceasefire and the way forward to ensure that it remains in force and in place.
No timeframe was set for this but the Indian side said they would like to address the problem as soon as possible.
Stability along the LoC and shutting down of the terror machinery on the Pakistan soil directed at India formed the core agenda for Singh in his first-ever meeting with the recently-elected Sharif. Sharif drove to Singh’s hotel New York Palace in midtown Manhattan for the meeting.
The two Prime Ministers extended invitations to each other for official visits but no dates were indicated. It is unlikely that Singh would achieve his desire of visiting Pakistan where he was born 81 years ago, given the current state of bilateral ties and the fact that his tenure is nearing its end.
For the record, India’s National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon told a media briefing at which both Indian and Pakistani journalists were present that the meeting was “cordial, useful and constructive”.
Singh also demanded effective action to bring to justice the perpetrators of 26/11 terror attack in Mumbai, he said the talks that came against the grim backdrop of twin terror attacks near Jammu on Thursday.
Unfazed by the demand by the BJP for calling off his meeting in the wake of the attacks, Prime Minister Singh decided to go ahead with the meeting.
Menon said the immediate priority is to “get out of the situation” which the two countries were because of cross border terrorism and LoC ceasefire violations.
Singh told Sharif that “peace on LoC is a precondition” for improvement in ties.
The two leaders agreed to see improvement in situation on the LoC where ceasefire violations are taking place on the Pakistani side. At the meeting, Singh raised the issue of continued cross-border terrorism and the support groups like Jamaat-ud-Dawa led by Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed get from the Pakistan government.
On Mumbai attack investigations in Pakistan which India feels is not making any progress, Sharif told Singh that action will be taken against the perpetrators. In this context he referred to the visit of his country’s judicial committee to India recently.
Sharif said Pakistan also suffers from terrorism. Asked how hopeful the Indian side was about Pakistan taking action on India’s concern, Menon said proof of success and usefulness of the meetings would be known only in the months to come.
He said both leaders desire to have better relations but no decision on another meeting between them was taken at this stage.
At another briefing five blocks away, Pakistan Foreign Secretary Abbas Jilani described the meeting “extremely positive and useful”.
“The main purpose was to create a conducive environment to discuss and resolve all outstanding issues,” he said.
“The two leaders expressed their commitment to resolve all their issues,” Jilani said.
Prime Minister Singh emphasised that resolution of all issues including Jammu and Kashmir, Siachen and Sir Creek was important for bringing peace in the region, he said.
He said the two leaders discussed the situation on the LoC and agreed that the accord reached in 2004 should be respected in letter and spirit.
Sharif emphasised that the two countries have no option but to sustain peaceful dialogue between them.
“Terrorism was discussed. We are aware of your concerns on terrorism, and I think our concerns are also known on the Indian side,” Jilani said.
Sharif also spoke of “external interference” by India in Balochistan and other parts of Pakistan, Jilani said.
At his briefing, Menon rejected the allegations of India’s involvement in Balochistan.
“There is no evidence. If there is any evidence, we have not seen it.”
To a Pakistani journalist’s question that India was the epicentre of terror in Pakistan, Menon shot back, “Well, I certainly have not heard of any such concerns. If there is any evidence we will look at it. There is absolutely no evidence of India exporting terror. I wish I can say the same is the reverse.”
To a question whether the army and Sharif were on the same page, Jilani said: “All institutions in Pakistan are on the same page. There is a misperception on this issue. In Pakistan, the decision-making process is the same as in all democratic countries – all decisions are taken through consensus.”
Jilani claimed that the 26/11 probe in Pakistan had slowed down because of the delay in the visit of the Judicial Commission to India.
After the visit, they would submit the report, the trial process would be speeded up, he said.
He said Kashmir is a very important issue and it needs to be resolved.
“Prime Minister Sharif raised the issue in this meeting. We witnessed an equal willingness on the part of the two leadership to resolve it in an amicable manner,” he said.
“There is no alternative to a peaceful, sustained and uninterrupted dialogue. We need to have an interaction on a regular basis to address all our outstanding issues,” he added.