External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi are expected to set the ball rolling for substantial bilateral talks, with a telephonic conversation on Tuesday noon, according to sources in the government.
The two will discuss a meeting between themselves and the Foreign Secretaries as a prelude to the reopening of a comprehensive dialogue, which was suspended after the November 2008 Mumbai attacks.
During the telephonic conversation, Mr. Krishna and Mr. Qureshi may discuss the scheduling of the talks – whether they should begin at the Foreign Secretary-level followed by an interaction between them or if the two meetings should be held in the reverse order. The sources said India was flexible with either arrangement.
Nothing has been decided on the venue for the two rounds of talks, which will be held following a decision taken by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani when they met on the sidelines of the SAARC summit in Thimphu last month. If the normal cyclical order is followed, Mr. Krishna and Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao should be going to Islamabad, as both Mr. Qureshi and Pakistan Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir had held the previous rounds of talks here.
The two Prime Ministers had felt meetings between the Foreign Secretaries and Foreign Ministers should be held first to address the trust deficit before both countries embarked on a full-fledged dialogue.
In Thimphu, the two Foreign Ministers resolved to get in touch with each other after the end of the budget session last Friday. Speaking in the Rajya Sabha last week, Mr. Krishna said he would hold a telephonic conversation with Mr. Qureshi “soon'' after the end of the session.
Since then both Ministers had been travelling or a public holiday has led to a scheduling mismatch. The best opportunity is on Tuesday as Mr. Krishna is scheduled to leave for Kazakhstan in the afternoon. He is then likely to spend a day here before leaving for Iran to attend a G-15 meeting.
“The framework is already there. The only thing is to decide to identify the mutually convenient time slot to have the conversation and both the countries are in touch with each other to identify that slot,'' Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Vishnu Prakash told reporters.