Foreign Secretaries meeting today
Rao Arrives In Islamabad; All Issues On Table
PRESS TRUST OF INDIA
Islamabad/New Delhi, June 23: Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao is meeting her Pakistani counterpart, Salman Basir, for talks on Thursday, June 24 amid India’s emphasis that both sides needed to make “dedicated” and “focussed” attempts to address difficulties affecting their relations.
Rao along with Home Secretary GK Pillai arrived at the Military Air Base in Rawalpindi, on the outskirts of Islamabad, by a special aircraft.
Rao will hold wide-ranging talks with Bashir covering an entire gamut of bilateral issues, including terrorism, Jammu and Kashmir, and the water dispute. The talks are expected to bridge the trust deficit between India and Pakistan.
All issues are on the table, including Jammu and Kashmir, official sources said here.
From India’s point of view, terror will top the agenda.
India would also like Pakistan to pursue confidence-building steps like an early meeting of the judicial committee on prisoners, enhanced commercial and economic ties and cross-border trade that will create a better atmosphere for reviving full-scale dialogue in the future, sources said.
India is hoping that the Pakistani side will re-affirm the progress made by the two sides during their composite dialogue 2004-2007 and in their back-channel talks on Kashmir that will encourage the two sides to pick up the threads from where they left.
Pillai is going to Islamabad for a meeting of senior officials of the eight-nation South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
Rao is the first senior Indian official to visit Pakistan after 2008 Mumbai attacks. Her visit will prepare the ground for the meeting of the Foreign Ministers on July 15. Before her departure for Islamabad, Rao said that the visit was a kind of exploration for reducing trust deficit that exists between the two countries.
Noting that Indo-Pak relations have seen ups and downs and tremendous levels of difficulties for the last 60 years, she said: “We are going there with a clear-eyed understanding of these difficulties and complexities.” She underlined that the core concern of terrorism was high on her mind as she approaches the talks.
“We are there also with the conviction that if India and Pakistan have to develop, be strong and prosperous and lives of their people have to be improved, then the governments of the two countries have to make a dedicated, focused and sincere attempt to address these difficulties,” she told a television channel.
“I can’t come before you and say that there is a magic formula with which we can solve these problems. We can’t just wave a wand and expect everything to disappear suddenly. I think we have to be clear-eyed and realistic,” she said.
Rao said both countries have to identify these problems and be aware of the difficulties that have driven them apart and must be ready to discuss and to enhance mutual trust and understanding in that process.
Indian government also had revealed that the talks with Pakistan will be in an ‘exploratory not an accusatory manner’.
Rao and Bashir have been tasked by Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Yousuf Raza Gilani to find ways to bridge the trust deficit and prepare the ground for the upcoming meeting of the Foreign Ministers.
Ahead of the talks, Pakistan Wednesday released 17 Indian nationals and handed them over to Indian authorities at the Attari-Wagah joint border check-post.
The 17 nationals released included four from Punjab who had strayed into Pakistan along the international border.
The foreign secretary-level talks will be followed by a meeting between Home Minister P Chidambaram and Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik Friday.
Chidambaram will represent India at the SAARC meeting of home ministers in Islamabad Saturday.
Sources in Pakistan’s Foreign Office conceded that no major breakthrough is expected during tomorrow’s talks but said officials were preparing for the long haul in parleys with India as both countries have a desire to usher in peace and stability in the region.
The Pakistani side is keen to revamp the existing Joint Anti-Terror Mechanism by upgrading it and this issue is likely to be raised during the talks, sources said.
Pakistani observers believe the Foreign Secretary-level talks present an opportunity for the two sides to find some common ground after a break of almost two years in the bilateral peace process.
Bashir will host an informal dinner for Rao following her arrival in Islamabad on a special flight this evening.
Official sources said the interaction between the two Foreign Secretaries at this dinner is expected to set the tone and tenor for tomorrow’s talks.
Besides the Foreign Secretary-level talks, Rao will call on Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi at the Foreign Office at 2 pm tomorrow.
The Indian High Commissioner will host an official dinner for Rao at the mission tomorrow night.
Rao is scheduled to leave for Canada on June 25, hours before another Indian delegation led by Home Minister P Chidambaram arrives in Islamabad to participate in a meeting of SAARC Interior Ministers.
Lastupdate on : Wed, 23 Jun 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 23 Jun 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 24 Jun 2010 00:00:00 IST
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