Pak Foreign Secy hopeful of bridging differences with India

Last Updated: Wednesday, February 24, 2010 - 21:23

New Delhi: Pakistan Foreign Secretary
Salman Bashir arrived here on Wednesday for talks tomorrow affirming
that he was hopeful of a "positive outcome" but it was clear
that India was not expecting any breakthrough given the
"trust-deficit" post Mumbai terror attacks.

"It is good to be back. I have come here to bridge the
differences. I am hopeful of a positive outcome," said Bashir,
who is heading a five-member delegation, on his arrival at
Delhi international airport.
Ahead of the talks between Bashir and his Indian
counterpart Nirupama Rao, both sides were wary of pre-judging
the outcome but sources here said New Delhi was "fully
conscious of the limitations imposed by trust deficit post-
Mumbai (attacks)."

However, the sources said, India was not "pre-judging
the outcome", a view echoed by the Pakistan Foreign Secretary,
who in Lahore prior to his departure for India, said it was
better not to view the talks "from the point of success or
failure." It would be better to wait till tomorrow, he said.

Issuing a statement on Bashir`s arrival, External
Affairs Ministry said during his stay, the Pakistani Foreign
Secretary is also scheduled to call on minister S M Krishna
and National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon.

Indicating the sharp diversions of view on key issues,
sources here said no joint statement, after the talks, was
contemplated.

Emphasising that India is going into talks "with an
open mind", government sources here said "given the complexity
involved, we would use this opportunity to clear the air as
much as possible."

It would also "seek to take the first step, even if
small, towards the opening of the possibility for future
dialogue," they said.

India has been maintaining that the focus of the talks
would be on its "core concerns" over cross-border terrorism
while Pakistan has been pressing for discussion on all
bilateral issues, including Kashmir during the parleys.

Ahead of the discussions, Bashir also made it clear
that India`s demand for handing over of JuD chief Hafiz Saeed,
the mastermind of the Mumbai attacks, should not be bracketed
with the talks as it would be "counter-productive."
"In my view, there is great clarity that bracketing
these specific issues with the talks is counter-productive,"
the Pakistan Foreign Secretary said.

Pakistan`s stand was very clear "on these issues, on
counter-terrorism and other problems...

"There is only one way-the first thing is that the two
sides had agreed in Sharm-el-Sheikh that terrorism is a common
problem. That is, the threat of terrorism is both to India and
Pakistan as it is to other countries of the world," Bashir
said.

Responding to a question on whether he would raise
the issue of Balochistan during the talks, Bashir said all
this was part of counter-terrorism and could be discussed.

Pakistan has accused India of supporting terrorist
training camps in Afghanistan to foment unrest in
Balochistsan, a charge flatly denied by New Delhi.

While proposing talks, India had made it clear that
the composite dialogue process could not be resumed till "the
environment of terror or the threat of terror" persists.

The composite dialogue was suspended in the wake of
the terror attacks in Mumbai in 2008 with India demanding
punishment to perpetrators of the attacks and dismantling of
terror infrastructure in Pakistan.

The Pakistan delegation includes its Foreign Office
Spokesman Abdul Basit and Director General of its South Asia
desk Afrasiab. Both sides would also hold separate press
conferences after the talks as there was no indication of a
joint media interaction.

Pak Foreign Secy meets Geelani

Fire-brand Kashmiri separatist
leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani today asked Pakistan to make
Kashmir issue the core of dialogue with India rather than harp
on water-sharing and other issues.

Ahead of the resumption of Foreign Secretary-level talks
between India and Pakistan tomorrow, visiting Pakistani
Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir met Geelani for 90 minutes.

Emerging from the meeting, Geelani, who has been quite
vocal against the policies of Pakistan vis-a-vis Kashmir, said
he had asked the visiting delegation from Islamabad to
concentrate only on Kashmir issue during their discussion
with India tomorrow.

Geelani said he told the Pakistan Foreign Secretary that
Islamabad "should not run away from its responsibilities of
providing moral, diplomatic and political support to Kashmir
issue".

The Jamaat-e-Islami leader said terrorism or
water-sharing issues between India and Pakistan were
"peripheral" issues.

Bashir later met a delegation of moderate Hurriyat
leaders led by Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and comprising Moulana
Abbas Ansari, Abdul Gani Bhat, Aga Syed Hassan Al-Mousvi
Al-Safvi and Bilal Lone.

PTI



First Published: Wednesday, February 24, 2010 - 21:23

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