Foreign Ministers may announce steps to improve people-to-people contacts

India will seek to expand the scope of talks with Pakistan when the Foreign Ministers meet here on Wednesday.

India will draw on an earlier India-Pakistan Joint Commission that had discussed cooperation in areas such as agriculture and health. “This [more subjects] could fall in the purview of a future dialogue. But we can't say with certainty if this will emerge [after the talks],” sources in the government said.

India and Pakistan are also likely to announce measures to improve people-to-people contacts and ease communication problems for people living on both sides of the border, said the sources.

India will remain “steadfast” in seeing an expeditious end to the trial in Pakistan of the masterminds of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. “We will be laying… emphasis on confidence-building measures in the scope of these discussions,” they said.

Wrap-up talks

The meeting between External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar will be preceded by wrap-up talks between the Foreign Secretaries on Tuesday. They will review the talks held so far and suggest the agenda for the Ministers.

“Both sides will review the progress in the dialogue process and try to chart a way forward. We will discuss issues with an open mind and forward-looking approach. Absence of the threat of terror will create the right atmosphere for a sustainable dialogue in future,” the sources said of the meeting between the Foreign Secretaries.

Trade issue

The meetings are taking place after both Prime Ministers asked their Foreign Ministers and Foreign Secretaries to work out the modalities for restoring trust and confidence and pave the way for a substantial dialogue on all issues of concern.

The problems plaguing the cross-Line of Control trade will be sought to be eased by more trading days, smoother entry permits, adequate facilities and better phone services and banking.

Has the trust deficit narrowed? The sources said communication had improved. “Project Pakistan, which was on life support, is beginning to breathe on its own” and both sides managed to sustain a sequence of meetings.

Recent blasts

Asked whether this month's Mumbai blasts would also come up discussion, the sources said: “As and when any evidence points to cross-border involvement, we will take it up. We should not jump the gun.”