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Indo-Pak talks on February 25
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 12
The stage is set for Foreign Secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan in New Delhi on February 25, more than 14 months after India suspended the dialogue with the neighbouring country in wake of the Mumbai attacks.

Pakistan Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir talked over phone to his Indian counterpart today to convey to her Islamabad’s acceptance of India’s invitation to him to come to New Delhi.

India had proposed February 18 or February 25 for the talks. Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani today held a high-level meeting in which it was decided that Bashir would come to New Delhi on February 25.

According to Pakistan’s official news agency APP, the Foreign Secretaries would discuss how the two countries could move forward to resume the ‘composite dialogue’ process.

India has already stated on several occasions that the meeting could not be construed as resumption of the dialogue process. New Delhi has also insisted that the focus of the talks would be on the issue of terrorism emanating from the Pakistani soil though it was also ready to discuss issues that Islamabad might like to raise.

But in tough posturing on the eve of the talks, Islamabad has said it would raise various other issues that have bedevilled ties between the two nations - particularly Kashmir and water sharing - and insist on resumption of the composite dialogue process.

Ever since the Mumbai carnage, New Delhi had rejected Islamabad’s pleas to resume the dialogue process, contending that it could not be business as usual between the two countries until Islamabad brought to justice perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks and dismantled the terrorist infrastructure existing on its territory.

However, the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan and ‘some action’ by Pakistan, like prosecution of seven persons arrested in connection with the Mumbai attacks, have brought change in New Delhi’s thinking. While it wants Islamabad to take more steps for punishing those behind the Mumbai attack, it feels it is time to re-engage with Pakistan and seek its full commitment to tackling terror.

It was with this intention that Rao had telephoned her Pakistani counterpart on January 25 and invited him to New Delhi for talks. On February 5, Pakistan High Commissioner to India Shahid Malik met Rao and discussed the possible dates for the talks. He then flew to Islamabad to discuss the proposed dates with his government.



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