Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao on Monday said that better relations with Pakistan could be achieved only in "an atmosphere free of terror and violence".

Urging Islamabad to take the issue of terrorism “very seriously”, she said a stable Pakistan acting as “a bulwark against terrorism and extremism’’ was in its own interest and also in the interest of the wider region.

“It (terrorism) hurts Pakistan but it also hurts its neighbours,” Ms. Rao said in reply to a question after delivering a speech on “Key Priorities of India’s Foreign Policy” at the International Institute for Strategic Studies here.

She said India had “consistently made efforts” to resolve difficult issues with Pakistan through negotiations.

“We have striven to promote better relations with Pakistan. Naturally, such relations can only grow in an atmosphere free of terror and violence. The trajectory of our relationship over the last few decades has been distorted and adversely impacted by the factor of cross-border terrorism,” she said.

Ms Rao described her talks with Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir in Islamabad recently as “productive and positive” and said the process would be taken forward when latter visited New Delhi next month. But she cautioned against expecting “dramatic breakthroughs” saying such meetings were part of a process of normalisation of relations.

India’s relations with China, the foreign secretary told a questioner, should not be seen through the prism of “competition” alone. As major emerging global powers, some competition was inevitable but it did not define their relations. It was a “huge relationship” with the two countries collaborating usefully on a variety of multilateral issues.

“We have consciously practised a policy of engagement that has yielded positive dividends. Although there is an unresolved boundary question between our two countries which should be settled on mutually acceptable terms, we have not held the rest of the relationship hostage to this complex issue,” she said.

On Sri Lanka, Ms. Rao said the “challenge” was how to achieve reconciliation between the Tamil and Sinhalese people after the end of the civil war. The country would take some time to heal itself and the aim should be to help with the “healing process”.

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