The Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan on Tuesday finalised a set of confidence building measures (CBMs) and resolved to continue with wide-ranging dialogue on different subjects to set the stage for the ministerial engagement between S.M. Krishna and Hina Rabbani Khar on Wednesday.
The Ministry of External Affairs described the interaction between Foreign Secretaries Nirupama Rao and Salman Bashir as cordial and positive. On the sidelines, the two sides, in a synchronised gesture, kept under wraps, released prisoners from the other country, most of them fishermen.
The Foreign Secretaries will brief the Ministers about their discussions ahead of Wednesday's meeting at the Hyderabad House
“They not only just reviewed the previous round of [line Ministry] talks but also looked at what series of steps could be taken in the months to come. We will announce the CBMs and see if we can expand the scope of people-to-people contacts and humanitarian issues,” said sources in the government.
The two officials also discussed the 2008 Mumbai attacks, with Ms. Rao emphasising the need to quickly conclude the trial in Pakistan to build a favourable public opinion here for better bilateral ties.
As is known, some of the CBMs will deal with facilitating trade and movement of people across the Line of Control (LoC). These include increasing the number of trading days, better phone facilities and more liberal entry permits.
The Foreign Secretaries also discussed the list of 21 items permitted for trading between the two Kashmirs with a view to ensuring that the definitions are succinct enough to prevent misinterpretation by the authorities.
Ms. Rao's team included Foreign Secretary-designate Ranjan Mathai, Joint Secretary Yash Sinha and India's High Commissioner to Pakistan Sharat Sabharwal.
The Pakistani delegation included Director-General, South Asia, Zehra Akbari, and Pakistan's High Commissioner to India Shahid Malik.
Mr. Bashir sought to redefine the semantics for the talks.
“There is no trust deficit. The trust deficit has to be more clearly understood … basically the effort is to build greater understanding. Instead of saying trying to address trust deficit, the attempt is to build greater understanding,” he said.
Terming the meeting preparatory, Ms. Rao said, “We are meeting here today, preparatory to the discussion that will be held tomorrow [on Wednesday].”
And striking an optimistic note, Mr. Bashir added: “I think we have every reason to be satisfied with our joint endeavours for the cause of peace and stability and for the good relations between our two countries.”