India and Pakistan took the first step towards restarting dialogue during a meeting between Foreign Secretaries of both countries here on Thursday. Both sides agreed on the need to “remain in touch” with each other to restore trust and confidence with Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao observing that, “we will keep this channel of communication open.” Besides focussing on terror and the need to successfully prosecute those arrested by Islamabad for the Mumbai blasts, India submitted three dossiers which Pakistan assured it would seriously examine.
One dossier provides information on some individuals associated with the Mumbai attacks, the second was a list of Indian fugitives sheltered in Pakistan and the third on Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed’s anti-India statements. Pakistan also submitted a note on water which detailed its concerns regarding alleged violations of the Indus Water Treaty, concerns about ongoing projects, deforestation at water sources and melting of glaciers due to human activity. It also touched upon India’s involvement in supplying weapons and money to insurgents in Baluchistan which India said was a “baseless allegation.”
Ms. Rao said India went into the talks with an open mind but was fully conscious of the limitations imposed by the trust deficit between the two sides. “Pakistan understood our concerns on terrorism and said tackling this threat is their number one priority,” she said. India appreciated the achievements of the composite dialogue, suspended after the Mumbai attacks.
But responding to the Pakistani suggestion for its resumption, it pointed out that time was not yet ripe as the main concern presently was to restore trust and confidence. Ms. Rao described the talks as “detailed, candid and transparent in which both sides gained.'' At a news conference later in the evening, Mr. Bashir acknowledged that tackling terrorism was Pakistan's top priority but felt it was necessary to restart the composite dialogue in order to address all the irritants in depth including Kashmir which was the “core issue.”
On terrorism, Pakistan suggested a comprehensive security concept which included intelligence sharing, temperance in the induction of military systems and greater restraint in statements from both sides. With both sides being nuclear powers, Pakistan sought a strategic restraint regime that addressed the issue of nuclear tipped missiles.“We have not succeeded or failed. It was a good opportunity to convey our respective perspectives. We did agree that the regression needs to be stopped and we need to build trust and confidence. We know all is not well and more needs to be done. We will try to do what we can,'' observed Mr. Bashir.