Singh team cautious on Pakistan visit
NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s senior cabinet colleagues and ranking officials are opposed to a bilateral political visit by him to Pakistan and would prefer to mask it as part of cricket diplomacy among other ruses, a local report said on Tuesday.
Without naming its sources, The Mail Today said that higher echelons of the government, including senior ministers, do not favour a stand-alone visit by the prime minister to Pakistan.
“It is understood that his senior colleagues, including Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, have advised the PM that his visit should coincide either with the Indian cricket team’s trip to Pakistan or any multilateral event there,” the paper said.
The report appeared to be of a piece with US diplomatic assessment that Dr Singh’s quest to improve ties with Pakistan was stymied by internal resistance from his party as well as by political rivals such as the Bharatiya Janata Party. The BJP says it does not believe in progress on peace talks without first resolving the issue of terrorism with Islamabad.
“The PM has been a longstanding votary of better ties with Pakistan. But Mukherjee and the others are said to be of the view that the government must be more pragmatic and adopt a cautious approach, given the past experiences in dealing with Islamabad, sources said.”
With no international meeting scheduled in Islamabad in near future, a cricket tour would be the perfect opportunity, the paper quoted the sources as saying.
It said the Indian cricket team might undertake a short trip for a one-day series this winter or early next year. The “general view”, according to the paper, was that a stand-alone visit could have domestic political consequences that the government and the Congress would find difficult to handle. The Sharm el-Sheikh summit in 2009 was listed as a failure.
According to the sources, Mr Mukherjee feels the official interaction launched at Thimphu in February would help keep Islamabad engaged to deter any terror attack from across the border.