India deliberately proposed July 15 for Foreign Minister-level talks to let passions over the sentencing of Ajmal Kasab to cool down, senior government sources said explaining why there was an over two-month gap between the phone call and the meeting.

The time period will be utilised to do some spade work on addressing the trust deficit and understanding each other's positions on all bilateral issues. India's position was understood by Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who did not think the time gap was out of the ordinary. The Pakistani side also thought it would be a good idea to let some time elapse after the excitement on the Kasab issue in both countries.

The sources ruled out suggestions that India wanted to wait for the Pakistani court to hand out its verdict on the seven accused in the 26/11 Mumbai attack case. They saw too many legal hurdles being put up by defence and felt that despite the confidence expressed by Interior Minister Rehman Malik, it was difficult to predict when the court would pronounce its judgement.

However, given Pakistan's enthusiasm for talks and its claim of being a victim of terrorism, India expected some action by Islamabad to signal its good intentions.

The sources suggested that it was not as if India and Pakistan would not interact in the intervening two months. Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao would travel to Islamabad with Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram and talk to her counterpart Salman Bashir on the sidelines of the SAARC Home Ministers' meet on June 26.

Another opportunity would arise in June when External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna travels to Tashkent to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit. There he might meet either Pakistan Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani or Mr. Qureshi.

Conducive atmosphere

Mr. Krishna already created a conducive ambience when he spoke in the Rajya Sabha last week about an “ideal situation” in transforming India-Pakistan relations. “The mood, ambience, tone and tenor of the Pakistan Prime Minister [in Thimphu] were indeed encouraging and the Indian Prime Minister put across our core concern about terrorism. I am sure [that] in the light of these discussions by the Prime Ministers we are in the right direction in trying to create trust and harmony. I am sure that ultimately the whole region will stand to benefit from the thaw with Pakistan.”

India now awaits a Pakistani gesture to corroborate its declaration of not allowing its soil to be used for anti-India activities.

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