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Tuesday, Oct 26, 2021
Outlook.com

A Stiff, Formal Handshake

India, Pakistan eke out a pact on terror that neither seems convinced about Updates

A Stiff, Formal Handshake
AP
A Stiff, Formal Handshake
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53
As PM Manmohan Singh read out the joint statement committing India and Pakistan to a new joint mechanism to address various aspects of terrorism, beside him sat Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf, wearing a stiff and formal smile. Later, when Indian journalists asked him if he was satisfied with his meeting with Manmohan, Musharraf put a finger to his lips, indicating he was to keep quiet—odd for a man who’s usually garrulous, especially in such settings where he can indulge in grandstanding.

But the media persisted. Finally, he opened his mouth. "Usually, I enjoy talking to the media but this time I have decided not to say anything," he said, adding, "Whatever needed to be said has been said in the joint statement." Outlook prompted him: "Are you going to call the beginning of this new chapter of India-Pakistan dialogue ‘Mohabbat zindabad’?"

"Yes, Mohabbat zindabad," he replied without much enthusiasm. Irritation was writ large on his face, as if he had been compelled to do something he did not want. This was surprising, considering that Pakistan had, in the past, offered to cooperate and jointly investigate acts of terrorism in India. Example: the blasts in Delhi before last Diwali.

Musharraf’s reticence was just an aspect of the mystery surrounding the decision to establish a joint mechanism to deal with terrorism. On the flight back from Havana to New Delhi via Frankfurt, the media fired a volley of questions at the PM, the national security advisor (NSA) and the foreign secretary-designate, Shiv Shankar Menon: Was Musharraf not duping India once again? With the real genie of terrorism in Pakistan being the ISI, how could it cooperate with RAW on terrorism? Was this joint mechanism practical? Would it...

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