A week ahead of the India-Pakistan Foreign Ministers' meeting here, the Foreign Office on Thursday said it would like the bilateral engagement which began in Thimphu to be an “uninterruptible” process.

Responding to a question on Islamabad's expectations from the ministerial meeting, Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit said Pakistan was approaching it with a positive mindset and “our expectations are that as a result of this meeting our countries engage in a sustained manner and in a process that is uninterruptible.”

This has been Pakistan's refrain for a while now and Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao had indicated in her “joint press stakeout” with Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir on June 24 that the two sides could discuss a mechanism for insulating the process of engagement from flashpoints such as the Mumbai terror attack.

Looking forward

According to Mr. Basit, there was a realisation on both sides that the two countries need to move forward and neither would gain from zero engagement. “No one has gained anything by not talking. This realisation we believe is important and would help our two countries to proceed and try to accommodate each other's concerns.”

Stating that Pakistan was hopeful that the ministerial meeting would help to move the process forward allowing the two countries to resolve issues of mutual concern and promote cooperation in South Asia as a whole, the spokesman refused to be drawn into commenting on Indian firing across the Line of Control in Sialkot; stating that this question should be addressed to the Army.

As for India's “refusal to move beyond the Mumbai terror attacks case,” Mr. Basit pointed out that Pakistan has been proceeding with a “full sense of responsibility and sincerity” and would like those who have committed the crime to be brought to justice.

Refusing to comment on the possible involvement of some serving and retired military personnel in that terror attack — as alleged by India — he said: “How can I say whether they are guilty or not? Even those who have been accused and are currently under trial in Pakistan in the Mumbai case cannot be termed as guilty till the court gives its verdict. We believe that all those involved in the Mumbai attack should be brought to book. Notwithstanding many complications, we are sparing no effort to get the Mumbai trial concluded as soon as possible.''

J&K situation

The Foreign Office expressed concern over the “worsening human rights situation” in Jammu and Kashmir and reiterated Pakistan's solidarity with the people of the State. “We will continue extending full diplomatic and moral support to their legitimate cause and struggle for self-determination.”

As for India's objections to Pakistan's nuclear deal with China, Mr. Basit said New Delhi had no locus standi on this. “Accordingly, the Indian protest, if any, is uncalled for and irrelevant.”