India, Pakistan to firm up agenda for foreign ministers Tuesday (Lead)

July 25th, 2011 - 8:15 pm ICT by IANS  

P. Chidambaram New Delhi/Islamabad, July 25 (IANS) The foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan will hold preparatory talks in New Delhi Tuesday to firm up details of confidence building measures (CBMs) and other trust-inducing initiatives that are expected to be announced by their foreign ministers the following day.

Accompanied by senior officials, Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir arrived here Monday evening.

Bashir will hold talks with his Indian counterpart Nirupama Rao on a wide range of bilateral issues with a view to firming up the agenda for talks between External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar on Wednesday.

Khar, Pakistan’s first woman foreign minister and the youngest to occupy the post, arrives in New Delhi on Tuesday.

Rao and Bashir, who will be meeting after a month, are expected to review the entire gamut of bilateral issues and firm up deliverables that will be unveiled by the foreign ministers on Wednesday.

An increase in the frequency of cross-Kashmir bus links between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad and Poonch and Rawalakot, an increase in the number of trading days across the Line of Control (LoC), and opening of more trading points are expected to be the tangible outcomes of talks.

Also to be discussed, sources said, would be measures to liberalise the visa regime though there may not be any immediate agreement on this.

After the talks between the foreign ministers, the two sides will announce a slew of CBMs aimed at lowering barriers to expanded trade and travel across the two divided halves of Kashmir.

Ahead of the talks, both sides have struck a positive tone, but are keen not to raise the expectations.

India will raise the issue of ISI’s link with Kashmiri separatism and emphasise the need for “an atmosphere free from terror” for meaningful talks. New Delhi will also seek to expand the scope of dialogue by including new people-centic areas of cooperation like agriculture, health and telecommunications.

India is ready to discuss “all issues with an open mind”, and will push for speedy justice for victims of the 26/11 Mumbai carnage, a government source said in New Delhi.

At the meeting of Home Minister P. Chidambaram and his Pakistani counterpart Rehman Malik on the sidelines of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) security in Thimphu over the weekend, India reiterated its request to Pakistan for the voice samples of the seven Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists accused of masterminding the Nov 26-29, 2008 attack.

An investigating team from Pakistan will soon be visiting Mumbai to question witnesses of the terror strike.

The meeting between the foreign ministers marks the high point of the peace process India resumed with Pakistan in February after an over two-year hiatus following the 26/11 terror spree that was perpetrated and masterminded by Pakistani terrorists and elements from across the border.

In Islamabad, Khar asserted that Pakistan would not accept the hegemony of any country in the region as it is “by no means inferior to India”, but sought to keep a positive tone ahead of her major foreign policy foray since she became the foreign minister over a week ago.

“Pakistan’s role in the region is by no means inferior to India,” she told reporters at the Lahore Airport Sunday when asked about US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s remarks during her visit to India that New Delhi must play a more assertive role in Asia.

Khar stressed that outstanding issues with India could not be settled overnight, according to Associated Press of Pakistan.

In an interview to a Pakistani TV channel Saturday, Khar noted India is “serious about the composite dialogue” and emphasised that her priority is to set the course for future bilateral relations.

Underlining Pakistan’s position at the upcoming talks, she said Islamabad wanted to “look at the entire picture and the root causes of problems”.

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