Two years after 26/11, India, Pakistan to resume dialogue on all issues (Lead)

February 10th, 2011 - 9:16 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, Feb 10 (IANS) More than two years after India suspended the composite dialogue with Pakistan, the two biggest South Asian nations have agreed to resume their dialogue “on all issues”, including counter-terrorism and Kashmir - with the Pakistani foreign minister to visit New Delhi in July.On Thursday, the external affairs ministry issued a press release on the “Agreed Outcome” which listed four decisions taken at Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao’s meeting with her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir in Thimphu Sunday night.

Both sides “have agreed to resume dialogue on all issues following the spirit of the Thimphu meeting between the two prime ministers” (in April 2010), the release said.

The Pakistani foreign minister will visit India by July “to review progress in the dialogue process with his counterpart”, it added.

But, before that meeting, there will be several rounds of secretary-level talks on various subjects, including counter-terrorism - with the press release specifically mentioning that the “progress on (26/11) Mumbai trial” would be on the agenda.

The foreign secretaries of the two countries will also meet.

The other areas which have been delineated are humanitarian issues, peace and security, including confidence-building measures, Jammu and Kashmir, promotion of friendly exchanges, Siachen, economic issues and the Wullar Barrage and Tulbul Navigation Project.

There will be also discussions on the disputed Sir Creek area in the Rann of Kutch at the level of Surveyors General or Additional Secretaries.

“Dates of the aforementioned meetings will be fixed through diplomatic channels,” said the press release.

Speaking to a Indian news channel, Foreign Secretary Rao said that “dialogue must be taken forward”. “We can hardly afford to put our back on each other…It is an article of faith,” she asserted.

After the Nov 26-29, 2008 Mumbai attack, there had been various efforts to revive the peace process, beginning with meeting of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari at Yekaterinburg in June 2009 and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani at Sharm-el-sheikh in July 2009.

Then, in April 2010, Manmohan Singh and Gilani met on sidelines of the Saarc summit in Thimphu.

Thereafter, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna had travelled to Islamabad in July 2010, but it had ended acrimoniously with then Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi taking potshots at India at a press conference. (Qureshi resigned Wednesday along with the rest of the cabinet and his replacement is yet to be named.)

The composite dialogue, begun in 2004, between the two countries was suspended following the Mumbai terror attack, which left 166 people dead.

India has said that elements in Pakistan had conspired and executed the attacks. India has been urging Pakistan to bring the masterminds of the attack to trial. It has also lately requested Pakistan to give permission to a Commission to visit and collect evidence related to 26/11).

According to a senior Indian official, while the talks would resume on the points covered by the composite dialogue, India has demurred from terming it as such. “We are definitely not terming it as resumption of composite dialogue,” he said.

On Tuesday, Nirupama Rao told reporters in Thimphu that she “would not like to get stuck in terminology”.

The United States has been a big supporter of renewal of contacts between India and Pakistan - noting that the Pakistani army would be able to concentrate on its western border with Afghanistan, if there were better New Delhi-Islamabad relations. But, it has been circumspect in showing its hand in bringing the two neighbours to the table.

Rao said that India was under no illusions that the talks will be difficult. “So, let us not have any illusions either. We should not be assuming that we have solved everything and everything is fine. We should understand that this discussion, this dialogue between the two sides is going to be a long one, and it will take time for issues to be resolved,” she stated.

In Islamabad, Pakistani Prime Minister Gilani welcomed the outcome of the foreign sercretary-level talks, commending his Indian counterpart on his “vision”.

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