India-Pak Foreign Secys’ talks on Nov 14, 15
New Delhi, October 17
The Ministry of External Affairs came out this evening with a one-line announcement: “Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary, Mr Riaz Mohammad Khan, will visit New Delhi from 13 to 15 November 2006 for talks with India’s Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon.”
The announcement was so terse that it did not even give the dates of talks or how many days the talks would continue.
This correspondent understands that the formal talks, to be spread over two days, will be held on November 14 and 15.
“The institutionalised joint mechanism to combat terrorism will be high on the agenda of the two Foreign Secretaries,” Pakistan’s Deputy High Commissioner Afrasiab told The Tribune.
India is expected to give Pakistan at this meeting “evidence” of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) involvement in the July 11 Mumbai blasts. New Delhi is toying with the idea of making the evidence public this time, the strategy being that in these times of people-to-people contacts, the Pakistani public should be used as a pressure point.
The dates of the talks were suggested by India yesterday. The final confirmation from the Pakistani side for acceptance of the dates came this morning. Islamabad had initially suggested talks between November 7 and 10.
New Delhi did not find these dates suitable, perhaps because US Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns is expected to come here within this time band and the Indian establishment did not favour having two high-profile foreign visitors around the same time.
The last Foreign Secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan were held here on January 17-18 this year. The talks were suspended after the July 11 serial train blasts in Mumbai whose perpetrators were traced to Pakistan by India shortly later.
From then on the Indo-Pak relations remained in deep freeze, until Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf met in Havana (Cuba) on September 10 to break the ice. The two leaders, who met on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Summit, decided to resume the Foreign Secretary-level talks and also unveiled an out-of-the-box idea: setting up an institutionalised joint mechanism to combat terrorism.