India, Pakistan talk -- to remove hiccups in ties

India voiced its concerns over the slow pace of 26/11 trial and Pakistan raked up the Kashmir issue.

Islamabad: India on Thursday voiced its concerns over the slow pace of 26/11 trial and Pakistan raked up the Kashmir issue as their foreign secretaries ended the first day of their revived talks, aimed at bridging trust deficit between the two estranged neighbours.

In her talks with her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir, Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao expressed India`s concerns over the slow progress in the trial in Pakistan of those suspected to be behind the Nov 26-29, 2008 Mumbai carnage.

Saying she has come for talks with "an open and constructive mind," Rao aired apprehensions about the involvement of a section of Pakistani spy agency ISI in the Mumbai terror plot as revealed by Pakistani-American Lashkar-e-Taiba operative David Coleman Headley.

She alluded to latest intelligence inputs that suggest that the infrastructure of anti-India terrorist groups still operates on Pakistani soil.

All aspects relating to peace and security have been discussed and terrorism is an issue which is an issue confronting both the countries and of course its very relevant to peace and security," Vishnu Prakash, the spokesperson of the Indian external affairs ministry, said.

"They also exchanged views on all issues relevant to peace and security including CBMs that exist between the two countries," said Pakistani Foreign Office spokesperson Tehmina Janjua.
"A number of ideas were discussed and reflected upon. The talks were substantive, held in very cordial atmosphere and were forward looking," she added.

"All issues relevant to peace and security that also include terror which is very relevant to both the countries were discussed," Prakash replied to queries whether the trial of Mumbai terror attack and the 2007 Samjhauta train blast, which killed over 40 Pakistanis, was discussed during the talks.

The two sides also reviewed the existing conventional and nuclear CBMs which include pre-notification of missile tests and the annual exchange of the list of nuclear installations.

The two top diplomats will hold discussions on Jammu and Kashmir and promotion of friendly exchanges in Islamabad on Friday.

Both Rao and Bashir struck notes of cautious optimism as they first held restricted talks before they were joined by their delegations.

Welcoming the Indian side, Bashir stressed that they were approaching the talks with a "great sense of confidence, optimism and determination."

"We wish to engage with you in not only walking the trajectory but also exploring new avenues further," he said. Rao agreed, saying this was an "apt" statement.

Rao, on her part, said that "we have a clear agenda in front of us for discussions" and noted that there have been good meetings in the past few months.
Rao touched down here in the morning and stressed that the talks aimed at an eventual normalisation of relations. "I bring with me the best wishes of the people and the government of India for the people and government of Pakistan. We wish to see a stable, peaceful and prosperous Pakistan," she said.

During her three-day stay to Islamabad, Rao will also call on Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. She returns to India Saturday afternoon.

The two-day talks are expected to set the stage for the meeting of the foreign ministers in New Delhi. This is the first high-level engagement between the two estranged neighbours since Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hosted his counterpart Gilani at the World Cup semifinal in Mohali March 30.

In February, the two countries decided to resume talks on all bilateral issues, reviving the dialogue process that was frozen in the wake of the Mumbai terror attack.

Since then, the defence, interior and commerce secretaries have met in the last few months.

Pakistan sought to up the ante by pitching Kashmir issue in the forefront with Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani, who is set to be the country`s next foreign minister, saying it is a core concern. "If Kashmir is not core concern, then what is core concern?" she said, adding that the two sides can meet if both agree that terrorism and Jammu and Kashmir are the core concerns.

"Terrorism is not only the core concern for India and Pakistan, rather for Afghanistan and entire region," she said. "We are willing to address our core concerns and the concerns of others."

On Wednesday, Gilani had said that that the future of Pakistan was closely linked with the resolution of the Kashmir dispute.

Hoping for a "forward movement," Rabbani exhorted both countries to move beyond status quo and "resolve long-standing issues.

With Pakistan focusing on the Kashmir issue, the leader of main opposition BJP LK Advani threatened to launch a mass demonstration if the government compromised on Kashmir.


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