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Ties and irritants

Successful talks were held in New Delhi between Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and his counterpart, Hina Rabbani Kher, the first woman Foreign Minister of Pakistan. There were no big bang announcements but the mood was friendly, starting a new era in ties. Differences on core issues such as J&K and terrorists persisted but there was agreement on continuation of the dialogue. Commerce Ministers of the two countries are expected to meet in September. There has been a thaw since the stormy meeting of Foreign Ministers in July last year, owing perhaps to the recent appointment of Kher. She emphasised the need for trust between the two countries. Nirupama Rao, India’s Foreign Secretary said that the differences between India and Pakistan were not to be underestimated but thought that there was a political will to establish good relations.

The main benefits of the parleys related to trade and travel in Kashmir. Trading days across the Line of Control are to be increased from two to four in a week. Travel is to be expanded to include visits for tourism and religious occasions. The processing time for applications is to be reduced so that it does not exceed 45 days. Travel permit conditions are to be relaxed allowing a six-month multiple entry system. The validity of the entry permit is to be four weeks. S.M. Krishna however made no secret of India’s unhappiness over Jihadi elements raising anti-India rhetoric in Pakistan. Kher’s meeting with the separatist Hurriyat leadership also caused misapprehension in Delhi. Besides, India pushed for speedy action against the perpetrators of the 26/11 terrorist attack in Mumbai. Kher said that her country was doing its best within the legal framework in Pakistan. Nevertheless, these irritants cast a dark shadow over the ray of hope about bilateral understanding.

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