NEW DELHI, March 1: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Monday that he had asked Saudi King Abdullah to use his “good offices” with Pakistan to urge it to check cross-border terrorism targeting India.
Speaking to Indian journalists on his way back from Riyadh, Dr Singh sought to stress the point that India had not asked for mediation.
“I know Saudi Arabia has close relations with Pakistan. I did discuss the Indo-Pak relations with His Majesty on a one-to-one basis. I explained to him the role that terrorism, aided, abetted and inspired by Pakistan is playing in our country. And I did not ask for him to do anything other than to use his good offices to persuade Pakistan to desist from this path.”
Dr Singh seemed to be under pressure to clarify the subtle difference between “good offices” and “mediation” after the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party slammed an accompanying minister’s remarks that were construed as seeking Saudi mediation with Pakistan. That interpretation was denied by the minister.
In a curious way, Dr Singh appeared to row back in Saudi Arabia from an agreement he had made with his Pakistani counterpart in Egypt in July last year. The Sharm El Sheikh joint statement had committed both to recognise that dialogue was the only way forward.
“Action on terrorism should not be linked to the Composite Dialogue process and these should not be bracketed,” the July statement had said.
On Monday, much of that appeared to have changed and new conditions were put in place. Dr Singh admitted in an address in Riyadh that if there was cooperation between India and Pakistan, vast opportunities will open up for trade, travel and development that will create prosperity in both countries and in South Asia as a whole. “But to realise this vision, Pakistan must act decisively against terrorism. If Pakistan cooperates with India, there is no problem that we cannot solve and we can walk the extra mile to open a new chapter in relations between our two countries.”
He underscored that view to the media. “Whosoever I meet, the world leaders, I convey to them, that all problems between India and Pakistan can be resolved through meaningful bilateral dialogue, if only Pakistan would take a more reasonable attitude in dealing with those terrorist elements who target our country.”
He said: “The Saudi Arabian leadership has a better understanding of the predicament that we face both in Pakistan and in Afghanistan.”
India and Saudi Arabia had agreed to impart a strategic character to their relations. To that end they “have put in place a roadmap for bilateral economic, political and security related cooperation that will constitute the core of our relationship in the coming years”.
Both countries are today threatened by extremism and violence. The pursuit of terror in the name of religion or any other cause or grievance cannot be acceptable to civilised societies, Dr Singh said.
Nowhere is this challenge greater than in Afghanistan. The people of Afghanistan have suffered for far too long. They deserve an atmosphere of peace and the opportunity to pursue a life of dignity and hope, Dr Singh said.
“The government of Afghanistan needs the support of the international community in restoring peace and development in the country. The international community should support all sections of Afghan society who wish to work towards the emergence of Afghanistan as a modern, stable and sovereign nation. No sanctuary should be given to those who promote terror, violence or instability in the country.”
He said India wishes to live in peace and friendship with its neighbours. “I believe that all countries of South Asia should work to realise a common vision of peace and inclusive development for the region.”