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Indo-Pak Foreign Secys’ talks in November
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 14
The much-awaited India, Pakistan Foreign Secretaries' talks will take place here early next month.

The exact dates are yet to be set, but this correspondent understands that the talks are expected to take place towards the end of the first week of November.

Pakistan’s Deputy High Commissioner Afrasiab will have a preliminary round of talks when he sits with Mr Dilip Sinha, Joint Secretary (Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran Division) in the Ministry of External Affairs in South Block on October 16 or 17. A set of convenient dates for the Secretary-level talks will be exchanged by the two sides at this meeting.

Earlier, the two sides were looking at the possibility of holding Foreign Secretary-level talks, as decided by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf in Havana last month, in October itself. But as the Id celebrations are due towards the end of this month, the talks had to be pushed to November. The dates for the talks are likely to be within the time band of November 6 to 10.

The institutionalised joint mechanism on combating terror, as announced in the Indo-Pakistan joint statement released at Havana, will be on top of the agenda of the two Foreign Secretaries.

During the two-day-long deliberations, Indian Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon and his Pakistani counterpart Riaz Mohammad Khan are expected to identify the broad contours of the joint mechanism.

Back-channel parleys on joint mechanism have already been held between the two sides. One sore point that has emerged so far in these back-channel negotiations — which are certainly not the official position of the two sides — is which terror outfits will be included in the joint mechanism and which ones will be kept out.

The Pakistanis are so far not willing to include the Hizbul Mujahideen, one of the most active terror outfits in Jammu and Kashmir,within the gambit of the proposed joint mechanism. Their argument is that the Hizbul is a home-grown outfit which is fighting for Kashmir’s independence.

Islamabad, as a matter of policy, has been extending “moral, diplomatic and political” support to independence-seekers in, what it calls, “India-occupied Kashmir”.

Another bone of contention is that Islamabad has indicated a trade-off for including Pakistan-based terror outfits like the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammed in the joint mechanism to India pledging that it will not meddle in Baluchistan.

The two sides are understood to have exchanged non-papers on Jammu and Kashmir. Though very many details of the non-papers are not known, it is understood that these relate to some new confidence- building measures (CBMs) in Jammu and Kashmir.

During the Secretary-level talks, the new High Commissioners of India and Pakistan are likely to participate. The two sides will have the new High Commissioners in saddle by the time the meeting takes place.

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