Raising alleged links of the ISI with the Mumbai terror attack,
India Friday pressed Pakistan for a "satisfactory closure" of the
26/11 trial and reminded that complex issues like Kashmir can't be
resolved under "the shadow of the gun". The two countries also
agreed to expand trade and travel across the Line of Control to
sustain the resumed dialogue.
In a new spirit of pragmatism, Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama
Rao and her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir discussed a range
of issues relating to peace and security, Jammu and Kashmir and
the promotion of friendly exchanges.
The talks over the last two days were held in a "cordial and
frank" manner with India and Pakistan issuing a joint statement
and the two diplomats, who were scheduled to address the media
separately, eventually appearing at a joint press conference.
Signalling a change in atmospherics, they vowed to carry forward
the dialogue process in "a constructive and purposeful manner".
The talks that ended Friday set the stage for the visit of
Pakistan's Minister of State for External Affairs Hina Rabbani
Khar, who is widely speculated to be the next foreign minister, to
New Delhi next month.
Rao called on Khar separately and conveyed the greetings of
India's External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, saying "the
government of India looked forward to her visit".
In a refreshing language that sought to break away from the
sterile pattern of mutual accusations, the two neighbours agreed
that "people were at the heart of this relationship" and decided
to take a slew of steps, including a liberalised visa regime, to
bring them together.
The two sides discussed various nuclear and conventional
confidence-building measures CBMs and agreed to convene separate
expert-level groups to strengthen the existing arrangements and
consider additional measures later this year.
Despite their differences and well-known positions on the Kashmir
issue, the two sides decided to reconvene a working group to flesh
out additional confidence building measures (CBMs) across the
ceasefire line dividing the two halves of Kashmir. The group will
meet before the visit of Pakistan's foreign minister to New Delhi
These CBMs could include the launch of the Kargil-Skardu bus link,
increasing the frequency of cross-Kashmir bus link between
Srinagar and Muzaffarabad and an increase in the number of trading
days across the LoC, informed sources said.
"We must help the people of Jammu and Kashmir to connect with each
other; to travel, to trade," Rao said.
Although Pakistan sought to pitch the Kashmir issue in the
limelight on the eve of the talks Thursday by reiterating that it
is a core issue, the two sides showed greater maturity in the
In some pointed straight talk, Rao reminded her hosts that there
was no alternative to "the resolution of outstanding issues
through peaceful, serious and sustained, bilateral dialogue".
"The shadow of the gun and the violence it has unleashed has
caused untold sufferings on our people in these years past. This
needs to end," she said, adding that the ideology of military
conflict should have no place in the paradigm of our relationship
of the 21st century.
Describing justice for the Mumbai terror attack victims, which
were masterminded and executed by Pakistani terrorists, as a
"critical issue", Rao said at a joint press conference that India
wanted "a satisfactory closure" of the 26/11 trial and stressed
that it was imperative for the "normalisation of relations".
Rao also took up the issue of the alleged links of Pakistan's spy
agency Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) to the Mumbai terror
attacks and pointed to the disclosures made by David Coleman
Headley, Pakistani-American Lashkar e-Taiba (LeT) operative,
linking the ISI to 26/11.
Bashir, who had famously described the evidence presented by India
linking elements in Pakistan to 26/11 as "fiction" when he came to
New Delhi last year, said that while he understood India's
concerns over terror, the two countries should focus on combating
this menace jointly.
"This issue of terrorism requires objectivity and we hope and
expect it to be addressed in a collaborative approach," he said.
Rao, however, made it clear that the resumed dialogue process can
continue only in "an atmosphere free from terror and violence".
Pakistan expressed satisfaction with the progress in the probe by
India into 2007 Samjhautha blasts that killed over 40 Pakistanis.
"There is every reason to be satisfied with the quality of
discussions which were very productive and constructive," said
"The Foreign Secretaries noted that both countries recognise that
terrorism poses a continuing threat to peace and security and they
reiterated the firm and undiluted commitment of the two countries
to fight and eliminate this scourge in all its forms and
manifestations," a joint statement said.
"They agreed on the need to strengthen cooperation on
counter-terrorism," said the statement.
The two estranged neighbours resumed their dialogue in February
this year that was frozen for over two years since the Nov 26,
2008 Mumbai terror attacks.
This was the first high-level engagement between the two sides
since Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hosted his counterpart Gilani
at the World Cup semifinal in Mohali March 30.