India for next round of talks in Pakistan

Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: India is willing to hold the next round of Foreign Secretary-level talks in Islamabad, but “nothing is so far confirmed,” according to officials of the Ministry of External Affairs.

They were amplifying External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna's observations on the sidelines of a seminar here on Monday. The first Foreign Secretary-level talks in the stand-alone format after the November 2008 Mumbai attacks were held here on February 24.

“The Foreign Secretary of Pakistan came here for the talks. So, perhaps it is the turn of Indian Foreign Secretary to go to Pakistan. So, let us move step by step,” Mr. Krishna told journalists on being asked about the date and venue of the next round of talks.

The officials expect the next round to set the stage for stepping up the level of dialogue, possibly at the SAARC summit in Bhutan next month.

“Keep speculating,” said Mr. Krishna when asked whether the two Prime Ministers could meet at this month's nuclear non-proliferation meet in Washington. They also drew attention to reports of Minister of State for External Affairs Parneet Kaur favouring discussions at a higher level.

Both Mr. Krishna and Ms. Kaur credited Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with having taken the initiative to reopen the bilateral dialogue. “It has been the initiative of the Prime Minister that India was willing to take an extra mile. He means it. We simply cannot wish our geography away. Of course, the only way forward is talks but I cannot now say, when or how, would the thread be taken up from where the two Foreign Secretaries left,” Ms. Kaur said in Chandigarh on Sunday.

Asked about the recent bomb blasts in Kabul that killed serving Indian officers, Mr. Krishna said New Delhi was awaiting the investigation report from the Afghanistan government.

“We have requested them to go into the depth to know where the conspiracy was hatched to attack our embassy where seven innocent Indian lives were lost. We are awaiting the report with the conclusions that Afghanistan government would have arrived,'' he said when asked if New Delhi had information about the people and organisations behind the attacks.