A week ahead of the talks with Pakistan, India suggested “creative solutions'' on issues that were under discussion between the two countries either through composite dialogue or backchannel diplomacy.

Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, who is scheduled to travel to Islamabad next week, drew the contours of New Delhi's approach in engaging Pakistan. Addressing an India-Pakistan-Afghanistan trialogue organised by the Delhi Policy Group here on Sunday, she said that on Jammu and Kashmir progress was made based on the common understanding that boundaries could not be redrawn. However both sides could work towards making them irrelevant and allowing people on both sides of the Line of Control to move freely and trade with one another.

“On the way forward, we have to build on these achievements. We also have to reaffirm the progress made through complex negotiations and dialogue through patient and unsung effort whether in the composite dialogue or back channel diplomacy, during this period. We must seek creative solutions,'' Ms. Rao said.

She said India-Pakistan discussions under the composite dialogue resumed in June 2004, predicated on the commitment by Islamabad that it would not allow any territory under its control to be used for terrorism directed against India. The process was paused after the terror attack on Mumbai.

To bridge the ‘trust-deficit' she said India was ready to address all issues of mutual concern through dialogue and peaceful negotiations. However, she said progress in the composite dialogue process between 2004-08 and back channel deliberations did not diminish the import of the dilemma as to how to deal with the persistent threat of terrorism, which has been the bane of the region.

“Every terrorist attack, including the one in Mumbai, hardens Indian public opinion, making our task more difficult. Terrorism as a continuation of war by other means, and the use of terrorist groups selectively, as strategic assets against India, cannot and must not, continue,'' she said. In the interest of the close relations Pakistan desires to have with India, it must act effectively against terrorist groups that seek to destroy prospects of peace and cooperation between the two countries.

Responding to reports on Pakistan's apprehension about India's conventional defence superiority and growing strategic capabilities, she said New Delhi's defence posture and capabilities were not of an offensive nature and not targeted against any country including Pakistan.

“Asymmetries in size and development, should not prevent us from working together, building complementarities, and realising a vision of friendly, bilateral relations,'' she said.

On Afghanistan, Ms. Rao emphasised that New Delhi saw it neither as a battleground for competing national interests nor assistance to Afghan reconstruction and development as a zero sum game.

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