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India, Pakistan Discuss Improving Ties

  • Ayaz Gul

Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir represented their countries at the meeting, the second such interaction between them since they first met in New Delhi four months ago.

Speaking at a joint news conference afterwards, both diplomats said the two countries have agreed to work closely to restore trust and confidence for a comprehensive, sustained and meaningful dialogue.

Pakistani Foreign Secretary Bashir says the meeting was primarily meant to prepare ground for the crucial talks between the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan to be held on July 15.

"I think after this engagement, I feel much more optimistic and confident about a good outcome at the ministerial level and good prospects for the two countries in terms of our relation," said Bashir.

India unilaterally suspended bilateral peace talks shortly after the deadly attacks on its financial capital, Mumbai, blaming Pakistan-based militants for the in November 2008 violence. New Delhi turned down Pakistani offers to resume the dialogue, saying Islamabad had not done enough to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Indian Foreign Secretary Rao indicated her country's position on future talks might be softening.

"We are agreed that the dialogue is the best way forward," said Rao. "I believe that the destiny of our two peoples is linked to each other. We owe it to our peoples to chart a course forward as far as the normalization of our relations is concerned, to narrow differences and to embark upon a collaborative engagement."

The attacks in Mumbai left at least 166 people dead, and Pakistan admitted they were partly planned on its soil.

Pakistani authorities have put at least seven suspected militants on trial in connection with the violence. But Islamabad maintains evidence New Delhi has shared with Pakistan is not enough to prove the men are tied to the attacks in India.

Foreign Secretary Rao said her Pakistani counterpart reiterated Pakistan's commitment to not allow its soil to be used to plot terrorist attacks against India. She added that the two countries will have to jointly counter the dangers of terrorism.

"I believe we must work together to deal with that threat and we must deny terrorist elements any opportunity to derail the process of improvement of relations between our two countries," added Rao.

Pakistani officials say cooperation with India on counterterrorism will come under in-depth discussion when the Indian interior minister meets his Pakistani counterpart later this week in Islamabad.