Foreign Secretaries of India, Pakistan to meet today

The Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan will on Tuesday hold here their third substantial interaction this year, during which they will recommend steps to ease the travel and trading woes as well as reduce the trust deficit between the two nations.

The meeting between Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir in the Capital will set the stage for the meet between Foreign Ministers S.M. Krishna and Hina Rabbani Khar, to be held on Wednesday.

Both sides have apparently agreed to increase the number of trading days across the Line of Control (LoC) besides improving the communication and storage facilities for traders in the two Kashmirs.

Pakistan is ready to reciprocate India's gesture of extending the duration of stay of persons from Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) in Jammu & Kashmir but there is a residual reluctance to increase the number of trading routes from two to five and designate banks from each side.

Besides assessing the future for the next round of dialogue, the Foreign Secretaries will also consider the possibility of adding more subjects and recommend to their Ministers some of these initiatives to be announced on Wednesday.

Humanitarian issues

“We will not just review but also look at what series of steps we can take in the months to come….besides taking steps to enhance people-to-people contacts and cooperation on humanitarian issues, we will see if we can have more measures put in place to help people on both sides [Kashmir] to communicate and trade with each other.

“We had a Joint Commission at one stage which discussed a lot of subjects — agriculture, health, telecommunications — these could fall in the purview of future dialogue but we cannot say with certainty at this stage whether this will emerge [after the talks],'' said official sources.”

While the first Foreign Secretary-level engagement in Thimphu this year was exploratory in nature after the 2008 Mumbai attacks ended all dialogue between the two countries and the abortive attempt made last year to resume the process, this is the second time in a month that Ms. Rao and Mr. Bashir meet with the wind of several senior official level interactions at the line Ministry level behind them.

But the interactions between Secretaries of the Ministries of Defence, Commerce, Home, Water Resources, besides at the Surveyor General's level, broke no new ground.

At best, they enabled both sides to asses the position of the other on each of the issues.

Government sources pointed out that during their meeting in Islamabad on June 23 and 24, Ms. Rao and Mr. Bashir discussed peace and security, cross-LoC CBMs and friendly exchanges, besides reviewing talks conducted by the line Ministries.

On the sidelines, officials had met to add to the present list of nuclear related CBMs. Their indication was that any announcements expected on Wednesday could be from these subjects.

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