Islamabad: Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan met here on Thursday in their efforts to bridge the trust deficit and work out measures to counter terrorism to bring on track the stalled peace process.
Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, the first senior Indian official to visit Islamabad since the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, met her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir for talks at the Foreign Office here.
The talks began with a one-on-one meeting between Rao and Bashir to be followed by delegation-level parleys. Rao and Bashir have been tasked by Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Yousuf Raza Gilani to find ways to bridge the trust deficit and prepare the ground for a meeting of the Foreign Ministers on July 15.
Ahead of the talks, Rao on Wednesday said that the visit was a kind of exploration for reducing trust deficit that exists between the two countries.
Noting that Indo-Pak relations have seen ups and downs and tremendous levels of difficulties for the last 60 years, she said: "We are going there with a clear-eyed understanding of these difficulties and there complexities."
She underlined that the core concern of terrorism was high on her mind as she approaches the talks.
"I can`t come before you and say that there is a magic formulae with which we can solve these problems. We can`t just wave a wand and expect everything to disappear suddenly. I think we have to clear-eyed and be realistic," she said.
Following the talks with Bashir, Rao will call on Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi at 2 pm Pakistani time. No joint media interaction by the two Foreign Secretaries has been scheduled so far and it is expected that both sides will arrange separate news briefings in the afternoon.
Officials from both sides acknowledged that they had no expectations of a major breakthrough during today s talks. However, both sides are preparing for the long haul so that the Foreign Secretary-level talks and other upcoming meetings can generate incremental progress towards the restoration of the stalled peace process, the officials said.
Ahead of the talks, Foreign Secretary Bashir told the Pakistani media that the meeting would essentially prepare the ground for the meeting of the Foreign Ministers on July 15.
"We will see what can be identified as doable, and then take it to the Foreign Ministers-level. In this meeting, we will try and find a common denominator. There has to be a comfort level on both sides, which will help us pick up the doable for the Foreign Ministers."
India had suspended the composite dialogue in the wake of the Mumbai attacks, blamed on the Pakistan-based terror group Lashker-e-Taiba, and officials of the two countries have since met only on the margins of international or regional forums.
Diplomatic sources said the Indian side, during the Foreign Secretary-level talks, will focus on the need for concerted action against anti-India terror groups like LeT and terrorist leaders like Jamaat-ud-Dawah chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, named by New Delhi as the mastermind of the Mumbai attacks.
Though Pakistan has put seven suspects on trial for alleged involvement in the attacks, it has consistently refused to act against Saeed, saying there is no solid evidence against him.
On the other hand, Pakistan is likely to focus on improving the human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir, differences over sharing of river waters, Siachen, Sir Creek, humanitarian issues like the release of prisoners and fishermen and firming up Kashmir-related confidence-building measures, the sources said.
Pakistan is also keen to revamp the existing Joint Anti-Terrorism Mechanism by upgrading it though India has not displayed any enthusiasm in this regard, sources said.
The Foreign Secretary-level talks are being held a day before Indian Home Minister P Chidambaram arrives in Islamabad to participate in a SAARC Interior Ministers meeting on June 26.
Chidambaram will also hold talks with his Pakistani counterpart Rehman Malik on the sidelines of the SAARC meet.