The delay in finalising a date for the planned India-Pakistan Foreign Secretaries’ talks on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York has set off speculation here that the meeting is in jeopardy.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said on Thursday that the dates were still being worked out, and that the Foreign Ministers would meet for talks in New York after the Foreign Secretaries’ meeting.

But that has failed to quell the guessing game about whether the talks will be held or not, especially as Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir is not in the official entourage leaving for the United States.

The News reported earlier this week that Mr. Bashir had decided against accompanying the official delegation as there were no dates for his meeting with Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, and that he would go only after New Delhi communicated a date for the meeting.

Top sources have told The Hindu in New Delhi that both sets of India-Pakistan meetings in New York are certain to take place. But India’s lukewarm attitude to the meetings from the start, and the inability to settle on a date for the Foreign Secretaries’ talks, are conveying a different message in Pakistan.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told journalists in Lahore before his departure on Thursday that India was trying to put Pakistan on the defensive by taking the Mumbai attacks matter to the U.S.

But, he said, Pakistan would not be affected by it, and India was mistaken if it thought it could achieve what it wanted by putting pressure on the government in Islamabad.

“We want a dialogue [with India] but we are not willing to accept any conditions ... We want talks in an open and friendly atmosphere,” Mr. Qureshi said.

A day earlier, Mr. Qureshi appeared pessimistic about India-Pakistan relations and said he expected no breakthrough in his meeting with Minister for External Affairs S.M Krishna.

But the Foreign Office spokesman pointed out that the Minister had also spoken of approaching the talks with an open mind.

“When we say we are going to the talks with an open mind, it means there is the possibility of a positive outcome,” Mr. Basit said.

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