Foreign secretary talks: A foundation for sustained dialogue, says Krishna

Monday, February 7, 2011

THIMPHU - A day after the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan met in this Bhutanese capital and agreed to take forward the dialogue process, both countries were optimistic Monday that they had taken steps to bridge the trust deficit and this would lead to a more sustained dialogue.

On Sunday night, Nirupama Rao and her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir held one-and-a-half-hours of discussions on all outstanding issues.

Giving his strong backing to the talks, Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna said Monday: The very fact that the two foreign secretaries met is certainly an indication that a solid foundation has been laid for getting the two countries on a sustained engagement.

He arrived in Bhutan to attend the 33rd meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) Council of Ministers.

“The genesis of all this was the prime ministers… when they met in Thimphu, they mandated the foreign ministers and foreign secretaries to bridge the trust deficit between the two countries,” Krishna said, referring to the meeting between India’s Manmohan Singh and Pakistan’s Yousuf Raza Gilani on the sidelines of the Saarc summit in April 2010.

He added that meetings between foreign secretaries and foreign ministers would help in “building bridges of trust, mutual confidence, respect and all the other things”.

There was a similar note of optimism in the foreign secretary’s remarks to the media Monday. We have to wait for this process to mature and we should be optimistic, cautiously optimistic…because there are many issues that need to be resolved between our two countries, as the nature of the relationship has been very complex, Rao said.

Pakistani Foreign Secretary Bashir said there was consensus in both New Delhi and Islamabad that dialogue was the practical way forward.

He said some of the points agreed upon by Manmohan Singh and Yusuf Raza Gilani in their April 2010 meeting had been meet, which included frequent contacts, bridging the trust deficit and agreement to discuss all issues.

I think we have to a considerable extent succeeded in doing that, Bashir told reporters on the subject of bridging the trust divide.

The talks came even as both countries engaged in a spat over the 2007 Samjhauta Express train blast that killed many Pakistanis.

The Pakistan foreign office Saturday accused India of lacking “courage to unearth culpability of Hindu extremists and their links with some Indian Army personnel” in the train blast of 2007 in Panipat in Haryana.

However, Salman Bashir was more circumspect. Every incident of terrorism is despicable. We condemn it whether it takes place in India, Pakistan or elsewhere, he noted, when asked for his views on the Samjhauta express investigations.

Similarly, he was equally non-committal on action against Jamaatud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed, who is considered as one of the masterminds of the 26/11 Mumbai attack.

“At this point in time I think what is important is that we all cooperate along with the international community to deal with issues which are of concern to you, which are of equal concern to us, he said.

On the central issue of Kashmir, he hoped that it would be resolved with the aspirations of the people of the state.

The foreign secretaries’ talks is expected to set the stage for a meeting of Foreign Minister Krishna and his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi in New Delhi this year.

Qureshi is not visiting Thimphu for the SAARC foreign ministers’ meeting Tuesday.

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