Indian, Pakistani foreign secretaries begin talks

July 26th, 2011 - 1:21 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 26 (IANS) Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao Tuesday began delegation-level talks with her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir to firm up the agenda for the meeting between their foreign ministers the following day.

Rao and Bashir shook hands warmly before the start of the talks.

The Indian delegation, headed by Rao, included Y.K. Sinha, joint secretary in charge of Pakistan in the external affairs ministry; India’s high commissioner to Pakistan Sharat Sabharwal; Vishnu Prakash, the spokesperson of the external affairs ministry, and other officials.

The Pakistani delegation, headed by Bashir, included Zehra H. Akbari, Director General, South Asia, in Pakistan’s foreign office; Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India Shahid Malik and other senior officials.

The two sides are expected to discuss an entire gamut of issues that have a bearing on bilateral ties, including cross-border terrorism and Jammu and Kashmir.

The two top diplomats are expected to firm up the details of confidence-building measures (CBMs) that are aimed at expanding travel and trade across the divided halves of Kashmir.

These CMBs are expected to be announced by External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar, who arrives here Tuesday evening, after they conclude their talks Wednesday.

The CBMs could include 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) from two to four, and opening of more trading points.

A government source said the two sides will also discuss measures to liberalise the visa regime.

Ahead of the talks, Bashir, who arrived in India from the Wagah border Monday evening, had said that Pakistan was ready to cooperate with India in the investigation of July 13 Mumbai blasts.

Stressing that it will be “full spectrum dialogue,” Bashir said the Kashmir issue will be a part of the discussions.

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