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After Thimpu thaw,India to meet Pakistan 7 times in next 3 months for talks

Talks will resemble composite dialogue format with Foreign Ministers reviewing progress at the end.

Written by Pranab Dhal Samanta | New Delhi |
February 10, 2011 12:56:56 pm

India and Pakistan are set to announce a set of seven conversations under a renewed engagement process resembling the composite dialogue.

This will signal the resumption of talks on all outstanding issues,including Kashmir,that had been frozen after the 26/11 attacks.

These talks will take place in “quick succession” with the aim to have them completed within the next three months,followed by the visit of the Pakistan Foreign Minister in July.

Even though the Indian side is not terming it as the composite dialogue,the format is almost the same with foreign ministers meeting at the end of the round to review progress.

However,to emphasise the fact that cooperation on terrorism remains central to the process,India is pushing for the first dialogue to be between the Home Secretaries.

Given Pakistan’s renewed focus on the investigations into the Samjhauta Express attacks,sources said,Islamabad too is open to the idea of holding this conversation soon.

Besides this,the secretaries of commerce,defence and water will also meet to discuss issues of trade,the Siachen dispute and controversies over sharing of water. Other relevant officials dealing with subjects like Sir Creek,narcotics and related issues will also hold meetings.

The subject of people-to-people contact,cultural cooperation and friendly exchanges will now be handled by the Foreign Secretaries as there is apparently no counterpart to the Culture Secretary in the current Pakistan set-up. Earlier,this subject was being dealt by the Culture Secretaries. The Foreign Secretaries will also cover the areas of Kashmir,peace,security and confidence building measures in their conversation.

These talks would be a result of the breakthrough achieved at the meeting between Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and her Pakistan counterpart Salman Bashir at Thimphu on Sunday. It was last February when the two had met here and hoped to resume the engagement process through a limited set of talks on non-controversial issues.

However,Pakistan’s political leadership wanted nothing less than the resumption of the composite dialogue. This continued to bog down all efforts and despite India trying to give a more positive indication towards resuming full engagement during External Affairs Minister S M Krishna’s visit to Islamabad,the Pakistan side backed out at the last minute.

Another aborted bid was made last September on the margins of the UN General Assembly meet at New York. However,Pakistan’s demand for a plebiscite in Kashmir in the UN spoiled the atmosphere and the absence of Bashir at New York was seen as a negative indication by the Indian side.

Thimphu,however,provided a better setting just as it did when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met his Pakistan counter Yousaf Raza Gilani last April.

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