India and Pakistan: tough intercourse

India and Pakistan exchanged tough words yesterday over a slow-moving peace process, casting a chill on attempts to end decades of rivalry and renewing doubts about any rapprochement.

The diplomatic tussle between the nuclear rivals came as a two-day summit of South Asian nations ended in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka, raising fresh questions over whether the group would be able to overcome differences between its two biggest members.

“There is clearly a trust deficit between the two countries,” Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz told reporters as the meeting of the seven-nation South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) drew to a close.

He said that as far as Pakistan was concerned, the core dispute with India was over divided Kashmir.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was quick to respond, agreeing about the lack of trust between the two countries and accusing Pakistan of failing to live up to its obligations to end violence in India by Pakistan-based militants.

“There has been some reduction but unfortunately it is our feeling that all that needs to be done has not been done,” he told reporters. “We have ... assurances that the future will be different from the past and we eagerly await for that to happen.”

He said the two sides needed to build up trust.

“Using harsh language in public is not the best way to promote dialogue and understanding,” Singh said referring to India-Pakistan peace moves. “I don’t think anything great is achieved by conducting this dialogue in full glare of the public.”

Singh reiterated that investigations into a series of bomb blasts in New Delhi last month, which killed 66 people, had shown the attackers had “external linkages”. Indian police suspect the bombs were the handiwork of Pakistan-based militants.

The remarks of the Indian and Pakistani leaders came a day after they held bilateral talks that failed to make any headway in their faltering peace process.

Aziz said the tensions between India and Pakistan were the main reason for Saarc’s failure to achieve more.

“Saarc is mired in conflict, you cannot deny it,” he said. “The truth is we need to take issues head-on and come up with solutions, whether it’s Pakistan-India or any other countries in the region,” reports Reuters. I.L.

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