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India, Pak optimistic on way forward

India and Pakistan Monday struck a note of optimism during bilateral talks in Thimpu, Bhutan.



Thimphu: A day after their meeting here
aimed at restoring the dialogue process, Foreign Secretary
Nirupama Rao and her Pakistan counterpart Salman Bashir Monday
struck a note of optimism and talked about taking the
engagement process forward through a "vision" for the
bilateral relationship.

Both Rao and Bashir described their 90-minute meeting
as useful and expressed satisfaction over their discussions
which covered a broad range of issues.

"We had a good meeting, useful meeting. We were able
to discuss a number of issues of relevance with the (Indo-Pak)
relationship," Rao told reporters here.

She said her discussions with Bashir were not
dominated by any one issue "but we talked about the (dialogue)
process and charting the way forward, what the best modalities
would be" in this direction.

"All in all it was a useful meeting," Rao said, adding
that both the sides had adopted an open and "constructive
attitude." "I`m satisfied."

Asked about the next step, she said, "We need to wait
and see."

"We have to wait for this process to mature. We should
be optimistic, cautiously optimistic because there are many
issues that remain to be resolved," she said.

Pointing out that the nature of India-Pakistan
relationship had been complex, Rao said, "We have to remain
realistic. We should be aware of the realities."

She emphasized the need for a "vision" for the future
of the relationship and noted that this was the feeling of
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Bashir, she said, had told her that his government
also was committed to taking forward the dialogue process on
outstanding issues in a constructive way.

The Pakistan Foreign Secretary separately told
reporters that "there was a broad meeting of minds" during his
meeting with Rao and he had "every reason to be quite
satisfied".

"We have had very productive exchange of views. We
will be reporting respectively to our governments and then
take it from there," he said.

Asked whether 2007 Samjhauta Express blast issue came
up during the meeting, Bashir was evasive. Rao said "all"
outstanding issues were discussed.

Bashir pointed out that when the Prime Ministers of
the two countries met in Thimphu in April last on the
sidelines of SAARC Summit, they had agreed on three things.

"One was to have frequent contacts. We have had
frequent contacts. The second was that we should make effort
to bridge the trust divide. I think, we have to a considerable
extent been able to do that. And third was that everything
should be discussed. That is the format that we are pursuing,"
he said.

He said there is consensus at the leadership level and
between the two foreign ministries that "that is the practical
way forward."

Asked whether any new initiatives had been discussed
during his talks with Rao, Bashir said the meeting was "about
how we proceed ahead in terms of the engagement. If you want
to get into specific issues, this was not an opportunity for
that."

Queried whether the meeting had set the stage for the
visit of Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi to
India, Bashir said, "of course, this was preparatory to the
Foreign Minister`s visit."

He refused to spell out the dates for the same, saying
it was "premature" to announce these. "But we will be sharing
this on our return."

Sources said Qureshi`s visit could take place in the
middle of this year.

On the feeling in India that Pakistan was dragging its
feet on 26/11 probe and trial, Bashir said his government`s
"strategy is that any such thing like 26/11 or anything else,
the perpetrators must be brought to justice. I think we are
proceeding accordingly."

He refused to comment when pointed out that Jamaat-ud
Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed continued to engage in public ranting
against India. "I would not like to comment on any one
specific individual 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.

Bashir defended his Foreign Office spokesman Abdul
Basit for his comment that India was using terror as a
propaganda against Pakistan, saying his remarks were "entirely
in line with what has been said previously."
He, however, went on to add that "the point is to get
over that point and start to work together."

Bashir said he would not like to say anything
"negative at this time" as "the important thing is to have a
clear vision of way we want to proceed, go ahead and make best
efforts to work together."

When pointed out that Home Minister P Chidambaram had
earlier blamed Islamic terrorism for Samjhauta blasts, Bashir
said, "I am not in a position to really comment on what the
Home Minister had said."

However, he added that "every incident of terrorism is
despicable. We condemn it whether it takes place in India or
in Pakistan or elsewhere. This is a common issue, it is a
global issue, it is a regional issue."

He said it was "a good thing that we have agreed to
cooperate to deal with this issue along with all the other
issues. There is a belief that (there is) a large area of
convergence. Where there are divergences, we need to work on
them."

Asked about his views on so-called "Hindu terrorism"
that has surfaced in India, Bashir was cautious.

"It is wrong to sort of connote any terror thing with
any denomination. That is my personal belief. Whether it is
Hindu or anything. I think that is not fair. Therefore we have
got to have clarity when we define these issues. Of course,
any act of terrorism is condemnable and we should work
together to ensure that this does not happen," Bashir said.

On the Kashmir issue, he said it was a "central issue"
and hoped it is resolved "in accordance with aspirations of
Kashmiri people. That is Pakistan`s position and of course we
look forward to discussing this along with other issues."

Asked about Kashmir Solidarity Day celebrated in
Pakistan on February 5, Bashir said, "Pakistan has always said
that has been established position of Pakistan of
longstanding that this issue needs to be resolved. And of
course we want it to be resolved. Pakistan of course has
expressed on Solidarity Day its moral and political support
for the Kashmiri people."

PTI

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