The foreign ministers of India and Pakistan went into an unscheduled prolonged engagement on Thursday afternoon; resulting in the rescheduling of External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna’s meetings with Pakistan President and Prime Minister.
Hopes of something positive were held out by both India and Pakistan early on Thursday afternoon after the first round of talks between the two delegations in the morning. Though the two ministers were scheduled to address a joint press conference soon after lunch, it was postponed for the evening amid indications from both sides that they needed more time to make some headway.
At first, it seemed as if the officials had been tasked to work out the doable but the two ministers remained in the Foreign office post-lunch. As the two sides remained closetted in the Foreign office after lunch, Mr. Krishna’s meetings with President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani were rescheduled.
The Pakistani side is understood to be pushing for a mechanism for sustained engagement while the Indians refused to divulge any details; save an indication that the delay in the joint press conference meant "good news." External Affairs Ministry officials said there were "lots of things on the table" without going into the specifics.
Mr. Krishna had on Wednesday asserted that “time has come” when Pakistan needed to act on the “overwhelming evidence” which was of “irrefutable nature” and maintained that “tirade” by jihadi leaders will not “help smoothen” the relations between the two countries.
Maintaining that the trial of seven accused in the Mumbai attacks case here, including LeT operations commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, was moving at a slow pace, India has made it clear that it would like to see an expeditious and successful conclusion of the trial.
Mr. Krishna’s focus on Headley assumes significance in the backdrop of comments attributed to Indian Home Secretary G. K. Pillai that evidence based on his interrogation showed that ISI and LeT chief Hafiz Saeed played “a much more significant role” in Mumbai terror attacks than was thought earlier.
“I also look forward to receiving feedback on the issues raised by our Home Minister (P. Chidambaram) during his visit to Pakistan last month on our core concern of terrorism, particularly in the light of the discussions our Home Minister had in Pakistan in the context of interrogation of David Headley regarding the Mumbai terrorist attack,” Mr. Krishna said.
Last night, the two foreign ministers had informal exchange of ideas at a dinner hosted by Mr. Qureshi.
Tasked by their Prime Ministers, who met in Thimphu in April, the Ministers, primarily, focused on ways to bridge trust deficit and to enhance confidence by building on various humanitarian issues, including people-to-people contact, exchanges of prisoners and bilateral trade.
After his meeting with Mr. Qureshi, Mr. Krishna will call on Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari.
Before leaving for home tomorrow evening, the External Affairs Minister will meet delegations from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the Awami National Party (ANP) and the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
Earlier, Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit said there is no fixed agenda for the talks and the two ministers will discuss all issues including Kashmir, terrorism and sharing of river waters.
“Kashmir is the core issue between the two countries which should be resolved,” he said.
Mr. Basit hoped that the meeting would bring positive results and prepare the ground for a sustained dialogue