Pak Foreign Secy hopeful of bridging differences with India
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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.


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

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