Ruling out a composite dialogue in the near future, India on Wednesday told Pakistan that the coming meeting of Foreign Secretaries could discuss all subjects but New Delhi will focus only on terror.
The message was conveyed to Pakistan High Commissioner Shahid Malik when he met Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao for preparatory discussions ahead of the talks.
“We told them our concerns on terror will definitely figure and then we can look at the state of affairs on bilateral issues and confidence-building measures. Some friendly visits between the two sides can also take place,” said sources in the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).
In an interview to a television channel, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna also made the same point. He said the Foreign Secretary-level talks were aimed at carrying forward the core issue as India was concerned about terror and terror-driven activities.
“We thought that it is necessary to engage Pakistan in dialogue. Hence we offered that the talks take place at the Foreign Secretary-level. We do not know what issues the Pakistan Foreign Secretary is going to raise. The brief for our Secretary is that terror is the centre and focus point of talks,” he said. He also clarified that the composite dialogue between India and Pakistan was suspended and would not happen anytime soon.
Talks between India and Pakistan went into an impasse after the November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. According to the tentative schedule, the Foreign Secretary-level talks are expected to be held on February 25 morning and it will be followed by lunch.
Drawing a distinction between a composite dialogue and Foreign Secretary-level talks, the sources said the former was wide-ranging and a number of arms of the government were involved. The February 25 talks were not part of a composite dialogue but aimed at initiating a dialogue to revive the bilateral ties. India decided to initiate talks after it perceived that Pakistan took some steps to act against the masterminds of the Mumbai attacks.
Seeking to clear the confusion over the nature of a composite dialogue, other sources said under this format eight issues were taken up. While peace and security and Kashmir were dealt with by the Foreign Secretaries, line Ministries took up the other six, including terror by the Home Ministry.
The fifth round of composite dialogue was interrupted by the attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul in July 2008. Thereafter, at a meeting in New York in September, both sides decided to revive the process and complete it by the year-end, though the timeline was unrealistic due to scheduling problems. However, the Mumbai attacks put a complete stop to the process.
It would require greater trust and confidence between the two sides to revive the composite dialogue, said the MEA sources.