Reiterating that Pakistan's response to India's "wishlist" with regard to those behind 2008 Mumbai terror attacks is "critical" to "substantive movement" in the bilateral dialogue, external affairs minister Salman Khurshid said in an interview to this agency here on Sunday.
What Islamabad has done so far about it is "not to our satisfaction", said Khurshid while taking stock of the Indo-Pak ties in the year gone by. Stating that he did not see the controversial statements made by Pakistan interior minister Rehman Malik during his recent India trip a "setback" in the dialogue process, Khurshid said, "What is said or what gesture is made is not critical."
"What we all believe in this country is that dialogue will move smoothly, faster and in a right direction provided the 26/11 wishlist on s uspects in the Mumbai attack, which is lying with Pakistan, is responded to," the minister said.
Agreeing that the bilateral talks have not been up to his satisfaction, Khurshid said, "The delivery of the fundamental aspects that are required to be fulfilled...if that is not done, we will not have substantive movement."
About the delay in Pakistan granting Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India, Khurshid said India will do whatever it takes to persuade to "get Pakistan back on track. If they have problems, they will certainly express them to us. It is not something which should be delayed indefinitely. It is not something we should just forget that it happened."
Dismissing the assessment of some in India that the Pakistan army was behind the delay in granting MFN status to India. Pakistan has delayed the grant of MNF status to India along with abolition of a negative trade list regime "for a short time" because of reservations expressed by several industries, according to Pakistan commerce minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim.
And it seems that India's stand on Iran and its assertion in South Asia are among the many contentious points between the two neighbours. Admitting that Iran was indeed a "difficult issue", Khurshid said in such situations, the country has taken a "principled" stand. "When somebody imposes sanctions on Iran as part of the UN sanctions and then unilateral sanctions are imposed. What should we do. So, we take a principled position. We stand by the UN-imposed sanctions."
But Khurshid chose to swear by "friendship with Iran, saying "...because our friendship is much longer-lasting and it should not be completely knocked out by the compliance of present sanctions imposed by the UN. We must let the UN know that it cannot be at the cost of our friendship," the minister said.
He also noted that "there is a principled balancing to be done which is a difficult thing".
On India-China bilateral ties, the minister said China was important to the country as partners. "China is a partner, it can be a collaborator, it can be a competitor," Khurshid said, adding, "Because Asia's role will be defined by India and China and to that extent, the big league game is with China. The other lesser league game is with Pakistan."
"We need good relationship with Pakistan. So, we wish Pakistan well. Also, we want it to be peaceful as we believe those are the circumstances in which we have a best chance of working closely... We are not accompanied by Pakistan at the high table, we are accompanied by China."
Talking about his priorities in the year, the minister said, "Priority frankly is to carry public opinion to support the opportunities we have abroad. We must get 'aam admi' (common man) connected with the foreign policy" while noting that in past leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru, Franklin D Roosevelt and Indira Gandhi were able to do so.