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India, Pakistan talks set on February 25
Published on 13 Feb. 2010 12:10 AM IST
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The Indian and Pakistani foreign secretaries will meet in New Delhi Feb 25 - for the first time since 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, the external affairs ministry in New Delhi announced Friday. “Pakistan Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir telephoned Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao today to convey acceptance of India’s invitation to hold foreign secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan in New Delhi on February 25,” the ministry said in a statement. A similar announcement was made earlier in the day by Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s office in Islamabad. In New Delhi, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao held an informal meeting with officials of the external affairs ministry after the Pakistan High Commission conveyed the date, sources said. The decision on the date was taken at a meeting chaired by Gilani at the prime minister’s house, Pakistan’s official APP news agency reported. “It was decided that foreign secretary-level talks between the two countries will be held Feb 25 in New Delhi,” a statement from the Pakistan prime minister’s house said. “The Pakistan side should raise all the core issues and press upon India for expeditious resolution through resumption of composite dialogue,” the statement added. By implication, Pakistan clearly suggested that in its view, the talks do not constitute the resumption of the stalled composite dialogue process, something that it has been insisting on for the past week. “The prime minister directed Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir that his talks with his Indian counterpart should be result oriented and meaningful,” it said. Bashir will meet his Indian counterpart Nirupama Rao in New Delhi, the statement added. The meeting reviewed a range of issues, including Kashmir. It was attended by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Kashmir Committee chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir. Ever since it was made known Feb 7 that India had suggested that the foreign secretary-level talks be held either Feb 18 or Feb 25, Pakistan’s top leadership has insisting on resuming the composite dialogue to cover all issues including water and Kashmir. India has consistently said it is premature to talk about resuming the dialogue at the present moment and has made it clear to Pakistan that the proposed foreign secretary-level talks are part of “a step-by-step incremental approach” and that Islamabad should “do more” to address New Delhi’s concerns over cross-border terror. India has said that the talks would focus on countering terror but that other issues of mutual concern could also be discussed. The talks have raised hopes of a thaw in relations between the two nuclear-armed neighbours. India had frozen the composite dialogue in the wake of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks blamed by New Delhi on Pakistan-based terror outfits. India has linked the restoration of peace process to Pakistan taking action against Lashkar-e-Taiba and its leader Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, who India alleges masterminded the Mumbai attacks, which killed 166 people, including 26 foreigners.

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