New Delhi — India and Pakistan agreed today to increase cooperation in agricultural research and to broaden cultural exchanges two small steps on the long road to easing the widespread mistrust and tensions that have characterized relations between the two neighbors since they gained independence nearly 38 years ago.

But the signings, after a two-year lapse in meetings of the India Pakistan joint commissioners, appeared to signal a positive turn in relations between the traditional enemies of South Asia. The joint commission was set up two years ago to promote trade and cultural links shattered by political disputes that erupted in war three times since the two countries achieved independence in 1947.

“There is a desire to move away from relations of conflict and tension to one of normalization, and possibly toward friendship and good neighborliness,” said Pakistan Foreign Minister Sahabzada Yaqub Khan in an_ interview Wednesday with The Washington Post.

“It is a difficult road beset with many obstacles,” he continued. “But because the will seems to exist on both sides, every chance should be given to defuse and relieve tension, eschew confrontation promote cooperation in as many fields as possible.”

Sounding the same tone, Indian Minister of State for External Affairs Khurshed Alam Khan said the agreements signed today “are important only as a means to an end — the establishment of cordiality, cooperation, mutual trust and understanding and of durable peace in our region.” While this new spirit of cooperation showed up clearly in relatively noncontroversial areas, the two sides failed to reach an agreement to end protectionism in their trade relations, or to ease India’s apprehensions over Pakistan’s military arms purchases or nuclear program. Yaqub Khan also attacked Indian complaints about his country’s arms purchases from the United States as “unreasonable, unrealistic and exaggerated.”

He accused India of buying $17 billion in arms from Soviet and western suppliers over the past four years while raising loud complaints over Pakistan’s purchases from the United States, which were about one tenth as large, he said.

While making anti-Indian points in an interview, Yaqub Khan insisted that Indo-Pakistani relations in other, less confrontational areas are improving. “The atmosphere that has been created has been very positive,” he said.

This appears to be part of a deliberate effort by Prime Minister Gandhi to improve India’s relations with its smaller, less powerful neighbors.

Although the effort to improve ties with Pakistan seems to be moving more slowly than with other countries on the subcontinent, Yaqub Khan said it would be “simplistic to put Indo-Pakistan relations on the same plane with any other of India’s neighbors.

“It is unrealistic to expect that past memories as well as a series of current complications can be whisked away in one stroke.”

Article extracted from this publication >>  July 12, 1985