| Begum Khaleda Zia and Manmohan Singh at the closing ceremony of the Saarc summit in Dhaka on Sunday. (Reuters)
Dhaka, Nov. 13: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh wants India and Pakistan to convert the “trust deficit” between them into a “surplus”.
At the same time, however, he has not ruled out “external” links ' meaning Pakistan ' of those responsible for the Delhi blasts but said that he does not believe in using “harsh language in public” as that is not conducive to improving relations.
“There is some truth in what the Pakistan Prime Minister said. There has been a trust deficit. It is our obligation to convert that deficit into a surplus,” he said at the end of his visit to the 13th Saarc summit here.
The Prime Minister pointed out that Pakistan was not doing enough to honour its commitment embodied in the January 2004 Islamabad Joint Statement that territory under its control would not be used for terrorist activities directed against India.
“There has been some reduction but it is our feeling that all that needs to be done has not been done,” Singh said.
The Prime Minister revealed that while inquiry was going on into the Delhi blasts, “available clues do indicate external links to some groups”.
“I have said more than once that we can choose our friends but not our neighbours,” the Prime Minister said.
However, he refused to say whether the clues pointed to the involvement of the Pakistani state or to rogue groups within that country.
On his meeting with Begum Khaleda Zia, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Singh described it as positive and having contributed to improving ties. “I have always held that a strong and prosperous Bangladesh is in our interest,” he said, adding that if there were any “misgivings” about India, he was willing to address them.
“There are no insurmountable issues between us. India will do nothing that will harm Bangladesh,” the Prime Minister declared. He said the response of Begum Khaleda to his assurances had been “constructive” and that she had accepted his invitation to visit India.
The Prime Minister said the issue of some Indian militants setting up camps on Bangladesh territory had been raised between the home secretaries of the two countries and “some positive steps have been indicated”.
Singh also took the opportunity to clarify that when he had referred to “failed states” in India’s neighbourhood, he did not have any particular country in mind. “I was not referring to any particular state. I was drawing attention to the fact that the security situation is becoming serious and that it needs to be addressed carefully,” he claimed.
The Prime Minister said India needed to work with its neighbours “to confront and overcome these challenges”.
Singh said he was pleased that Saarc had agreed to admit Afghanistan as a new member and noted the interest of China and Japan to get the status of observers or dialogue partners.
He argued for greater connectivity within Saarc countries through easier transit routes and by members providing access to each other’s transport network.
About the forthcoming vote at the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency at Vienna, Singh said India’s attempt would be to work towards a “broad-based consensus” so that a vote was not required.
However, which way India would vote would ultimately “depend on the issues being voted”.
The Prime Minister also dismissed doubts about Indian obligations being fulfilled first for the nuclear deal with the US to be pushed through.
America has been suggesting that India first separate its civilian and nuclear programmes according to a plan in a credible and transparent manner before it moves the US Congress to lift curbs for nuclear cooperation with India.
Singh had suggested that this would be a process in phases.
“People do make statements directed at special audiences,” he claimed while recommending that “we should not get perturbed” by them. “I stand by what I said in Parliament,” he declared.