Indo-Pak CBMs showing results: Government

New Delhi: The confidence building measures put in place by India and Pakistan are starting to show results but there is still a long way to go for full normalisation of ties between the two countries, government sources said today.

The sources said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani during their planned meeting next week on the sidelines of the 17th SAARC summit in Maldives would have an opportunity to review the progress in bilateral relations since they last met at the previous meeting of the grouping in Thimphu, Bhutan.

Giving India`s assessment of the state of Indo-Pak ties, the sources said that the two countries should be happy that they were able to move on in improving bilateral ties after they worked out the confidence building measures (CBM) in areas like cross-Line of Control trade and visa liberalisation for travel.

The Singh-Gilani parleys will take place against the backdrop of a major crisis being quickly averted recently after Pakistan released an Indian Air Force Cheetah helicopter within five hours after it strayed into Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK) due to inclement weather.

Diplomatic and military channels in both countries had swung into action after the helicopter incident. On other issues regarding to Indo-Pak ties, the sources said it is also in the interest of Pakistan to extend the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India for exports from this country.

Earlier in the day, Pakistan, after dilly-dallying for several years, granted the MFN status to India in a significant step in improving bilateral ties and boosting two -way trade currently standing at USD 2.6 billion.

On the situation in Afghanistan, the sources underscored the need for a regional solution where there is a limited foreign interference. At the same time, the sources said everybody is hedging on the future of the strife-torn country.

The sources ruled out the possibility of Indian troops being deployed in Afghanistan at any stage — either now or after the withdrawal of the US-led NATO forces. They said India was glad that it was invited by Turkey for the conference on Afghanistan in Istanbul after it was kept out of the previous meetings hosted by the country. The sources said that several countries had raised with Turkey the issue of India`s exclusion from the conference.

The sources rejected a report by a strategic think-tank – Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA)- that China may do a Kargil with India and suggesting that the country could engage in limited hostilities.

The sources noted that the Indian Army has ruled out the possibility and said the larger question should be why should any country want to engage in trouble and what will be the gain. At the same time, the sources said, there may be some countries who would like to see India and China at each other`s throat.

The sources said it was the Army`s assessment that they can handle such an eventuality if the need arose. They also noted that the Sino-India border is the most peaceful border in the world and this should be appreciated in the context of density of troops on both sides of the border.

The sources, however, acknowledged that the boundary question no doubt was a serious one which India will deal with directly since it is not a settled question. The next round between the Special Representatives of the two countries are expected to be held towards the end of this month.

Regarding short-listing of two European armament companies for the purchase of medium multi-range combat aircraft and US aviation majors being out of the race, the sources said the sole criteria was that the country`s armed forces should get the right weapons.

Regarding the stalled Teesta water pact between India and Bangladesh, the sources said negotiations will be held with West Bengal government. It is a question of picking up the threads, they said.

The pact could not be signed during Prime Minister Singh`s visit to Bangladesh in September following objections by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. The sources also said that India welcomed the entry of Palestine to the UNESCO.