Foreign Ministers of India and Pakistan met on the sidelines of a meeting of the SAARC Council of Ministers here on Wednesday, a day ahead of the meeting between the Prime Ministers of the two countries.
Just as the meet between the Foreign Secretaries sought to prepare the ground for the Prime Ministers' interaction, the meet between the Foreign Ministers too was another step forward in that direction.
“Terrorism was one of the main issues that India remained focussed at the meeting,” said a senior Indian official when asked about the discussions at the 30-minute meeting between External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and his Pakistan counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar.
“When we discuss bilateral issues, we certainly factor in terror and its various ramifications,” Mr. Krishna told journalists later. The meetings between the two sides at all levels were cordial. One official even described the two meetings — between the Foreign Secretaries and the Foreign Ministers — as fruitful, raising hopes of another breakthrough in India-Pakistan relations.
Earlier, at a meeting of SAARC Foreign Secretaries, there was a general consensus to take the next logical steps to achieve the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA).
Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said the two-day meeting of the Standing Committee on Foreign secretaries, ahead of the SAARC summit, discussed various issues on connectivity, keeping in view the theme of this year's SAARC meet and it was agreed upon by all to take the SAFTA forward. In the trade-related areas, it was agreed that the list of sensitive issues in respect of LDCs (Less Developed Countries) were to be scaled down.
Process of engagement
On his meeting with his Pakistan counterpart Salman Bashir on Tuesday, Mr. Mathai said the meeting prepared the ground for the meeting between the Prime Ministers. In keeping with the directives of the two leaders during the Thimphu meet, the process of engagement between the two countries was continued forward.
Commerce Secretaries of India and Pakistan were likely to meet later this month, where details of the MFN (most-favoured nation) status to India would be worked out.
Mr. Mathai said the modalities for a meeting between the Home Secretary and the Pakistani Interior secretary in December were also being worked out.
There was an agreement on the Judicial Commission from Pakistan to visit India, but the modalities were to be worked out. To a query, he said discussions on the 26/11 attack on Mumbai would be one of the components of the Judicial Commission.
On the nine observer nations to the eight-member SAARC forum, Mr. Mathai said the member-states agreed to review the relationship of these observer nations vis-a-vis the SAARC member-states.
After protests from some SAARC nations on adding more observers, a three-year moratorium was imposed on adding new members. But that deadline had come to an end.