Singh Defends Effort to Improve Ties With Pakistan
By KETAKI GOKHALE and PAUL BECKETT, Wall Street Journal, July 30, 2009
NEW DELHI -- Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is preparing to explain an agreement to improve relations with Pakistan after facing sustained political flak from his opponents -- and lukewarm support from his own party -- on the issue.
Mr. Singh is scheduled to address parliament Wednesday in a speech an official from his party said "will set at rest all questions, apprehensions and speculations relating to the India-Pakistan joint statement."
In the joint statement two weeks ago, Mr. Singh and Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani agreed to decouple discussions about terrorism from broader talks between the two countries on issues such as trade and travel.
That was a risky stance with an Indian public that has been particularly wary of its neighbor since November's attacks in Mumbai, in which over 160 people were killed by terrorists from Pakistan.
The statement, which Mr. Singh brought home from a meeting at a multinational summit in Egypt, also included a resolution to cooperate in the fight against terrorism and a passing reference to the insurgency in the Pakistani province of Baluchistan, another sore point between the two neighbors. Pakistani officials have suggested that India is helping the Baluch separatists, a charge India denies.
The agreement stood in stark contrast to comments Mr. Singh had made a month earlier during a meeting with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari in Russia. There, he tersely told Mr. Zardari that his mandate for talks with Pakistan was limited to how the country handled terrorism.
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