India, Pakistan foreign secretaries meet in Islamabad

India, Pakistan foreign secretaries meet in Islamabad

Islamabad: Foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan met in the Pksitani capital on Thursday in their efforts to bridge the trust deficit and work out measures to counter terrorism to bring on track the stalled peace process.

Foreign secretary Nirupama Rao, the first senior Indian official to visit Islamabad since the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, met her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir for talks at the foreign office.

The talks began with a one-on-one meeting between Rao and Bashir to be followed by delegation-level parleys.

Rao and Bashir have been tasked by Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Yousuf Raza Gilani to find ways to bridge the trust deficit and prepare the ground for a meeting of the foreign ministers on 15 July.

Ahead of the talks, Rao on Wednesday said the visit was a kind of exploration for reducing trust deficit that exists between the two countries.

Noting India-Pakistan relations have seen ups and downs and tremendous levels of difficulties for the last 60 years, she said: “We are going there with a clear-eyed understanding of these difficulties and there complexities."

She underlined the core concern of terrorism was high on her mind as she approaches the talks.

“I can’t come before you and say that there is a magic formulae with which we can solve these problems. We can’t just wave a wand and expect everything to disappear suddenly. I think we have to clear-eyed and be realistic," she said.

Following the talks with Bashir, Rao will call on foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi at 2p.m. Pakistani time.

No joint media interaction by the two foreign secretaries has been scheduled so far and it is expected that both sides will arrange separate news briefings in the afternoon.

Officials from both sides acknowledged they had no expectations of a major breakthrough during today’s talks.

However, both sides are preparing for the long haul so that the foreign secretary-level talks and other upcoming meetings can generate incremental progress towards the restoration of the stalled peace process, the officials said.

Ahead of the talks, foreign secretary Bashir told the Pakistani media that the meeting would essentially prepare the ground for the meeting of the foreign ministers on 15 July.

“We will see what can be identified as doable, and then take it to the foreign ministers-level. In this meeting, we will try and find a common denominator. There has to be a comfort level on both sides, which will help us pick up the doable for the foreign ministers."