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Updated: February 7, 2011 02:58 IST

India, Pakistan to take dialogue process forward

Sandeep Dikshit
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ANOTHER ROUND: At the Foreign Secretaries' meet in Thimphu on Sunday, Nirupama Rao and Pakistani's Salman Bashir, agreed on the need for a constructive dialogue to take forward the talks process.
PTI ANOTHER ROUND: At the Foreign Secretaries' meet in Thimphu on Sunday, Nirupama Rao and Pakistani's Salman Bashir, agreed on the need for a constructive dialogue to take forward the talks process.

Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan decided to take the dialogue process forward after 90 minutes of talks late on Sunday night.

“The Foreign Secretaries had useful and frank discussions on the steps required …they agreed on the need for a constructive dialogue to take forward the dialogue process. They will brief their respective governments on their discussions,” said Foreign Office Joint Secretary Vishnu Prakash, after the Foreign Secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan here on Sunday.

No timeline: India

Pakistan, as was the case last time, insisted on resuming the composite dialogue, while India said it is not shy of discussing outstanding issues. However, New Delhi felt that instead of taking up all issues, both sides should select only some on which agreements could be reached. There should not be any time line, said India, in response to Pakistan's desire for a result oriented approach.

Flanked by five officials each including the two High Commissioners, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and her Pakistan counterpart Salman Bashir, set the stage for a cordial round of talks by refusing to get drawn in on the Samjahuta Express issue. During pre-meeting briefings, their officials too declined to trade charges.

“We are resuming our contact after interregnum of some time. We have a number of issues to be discussed. As we have always said, dialogue between India and Pakistan is necessary and a must if we are to satisfactorily resolve the outstanding issues between our two countries,” said Ms. Rao. “We have a number of outstanding issues. So, we are going into this with an open mind and constructive attitude,” she added.

“My expectations are that we should be working towards continued engagement,” said Mr. Bashir.

“Where there is dialogue, both raise issues of concern to them. This is particularly true of India and Pakistan since 1947,” said sources, pointing out that Samjhauta Express blasts and Mumbai attacks should not be equated. Pakistan too has declined to raise the pitch on Samjhauta though it feels this is one issue on which India can be pushed.

The officials are seeking to create a second Thimphu spirit. The first thaw took place at the same venue in April last year when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistan counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani directed their Foreign Offices to reduce the trust deficit and agree on deliverables.

The two Foreign Secretaries also met briefly on Saturday night but officials downplayed that interaction by pointing out their cordial relationship when both were Ambassadors in Beijing.

“There is no alternative to the process of engagement. We have to engage Pakistan and dialogue is the only way forward,” said sources.

With laws of diminishing returns having set in, the sources said that while terrorism is a major component at the talks and India feels Pakistan can do more, this was not the only issue on the table. The two Foreign Secretaries had held two rounds of talks last year.

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