Indian Decade

Signs of an Indo-Pak Thaw?

A positive phone call between the Indian and Pakistani foreign ministers could be a sign of warming ties.

India and Pakistan, the two nuclear-armed South Asian neighbours who have fought three (and a half) wars since their partition in 1947, have always displayed a cyclical pattern in bilateral ties: cold, warm, cold, warm, and so on.

Yet despite their flop of a foreign minister-level meeting in Islamabad last July, and the often cold vibes exchanged since then, relations between the two are now once again warming up.

The shift was evident on January 25 as Pakistani Foreign Minister S M Qureshi telephoned his Indian counterpart S M Krishna to convey Pakistan’s well wishes on the eve of India’s Republic Day. Although such gestures are routine, and the two neighbours have generally greeted each other on their respective national days, some have suggested the tone of the conversation between the two foreign ministers this time was particularly positive.

For a start, it reportedly wasn’t simply the usual two minute congratulatory call, even though Qureshi could have politely kept it short if he’d wanted to.

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The two ministers also used the call as an opportunity to briefly exchange views on bilateral relations. They referred to the upcoming bilateral meeting between the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan in Thimphu (Bhutan) and expressed their hopes for a positive outcome. But the biggest diplomatic sign came when Krishna reiterated his invitation to Qureshi to visit India at a mutually convenient date to carry forward the dialogue process. Qureshi is said to have responded positively, saying that he looked forward to visiting New Delhi.

Meanwhile, a brief statement put out by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said Qureshi thanked Krishna for his letter of condolences on the assassination of Punjab Gov. Salman Taseer. Krishna stated that it was a tragic incident and once again conveyed his deep sympathies to members of Taseer’s family.

Indeed, the cordial Krishna-Qureshi phone conversation is being viewed as an extremely positive sign that should help contribute to the success of the upcoming talks between the two nations in Thimphu on February 6 and 7.