India, Pak foreign secretaries burn midnight oil to find common ground

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Sharm-el-Sheikh (Egypt), July 15 (ANI): Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan - Shiv Shankar Menon and Salman Basheer - burnt the midnight oil on Tuesday to try to work out some kind of framework to lay the ground for the resumption of talks between the two countries.

Mandated by their respective Prime Ministers' - Dr. Manmohan Singh and Yousuf Raza Gilani-to work out the modalities before the two heads of government meet on Thursday (July 16). Menon and Basheer interacted with each other without the assistance of aides late into the night.

The 90-minute meeting took place soon after the Indian delegation landed here from Paris after attending the French National Day celebrations there.

According to senior officials, the discussions between the two were good and detailed, and both agreed to meet again on Wednesday on the sidelines of the XVth Non-Aligned Summit that opens in this Red Sea resort today.

There were suggestions of some movement being made by both sides on the issue of terrorism and the possibility of a joint media appearance by the Prime Ministers' of the two countries after they hear from their respective foreign secretaries.

Menon and Basheer are believed to have discussed the progress made by Islamabad in its probe into the 26/11 strikes and the steps taken to dismantle the terrorism infrastructure on its soil.

Menon and Basheer's discussions are also believed to have covered Pakistan's flip-flop over the arrest and release of Sayeed and the withdrawal of petitions challenging his release from the Supreme Court.

Ahead of the meeting between the two foreign secretaries and the two Prime Ministers', Indian External Affairs Minister S M Krishna has demanded a "visible response" and undertaking from Pakistan on bringing the perpetrators of Mumbai terror attacks to justice.

Prime Minister Gilani, who also arrived here on Tuesday, has said that he will approach his meeting with Dr. Singh with an "open heart and a positive mind."

But he refused to comment on the Punjab provincial government's decision to withdraw the petitions that challenged last month's release from house arrest of Jamaat-ud Dawa chief Hafiz Mohammed Sayeed.

Tuesday night's talks come four days after Pakistan handed over a fresh dossier on its probe into the Mumbai terror attacks to India.

The dossier, handed over to the Indian High Commission officials in Islamabad on Saturday, identifies 13 new suspects and gives an update on Pakistan's investigations into the November 26 attacks, sources said.

After Prime Minister Singh's disclosure on Saturday that ISI chief Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha had met some Indian High Commission officials in Islamabad, speculation are rife about the powerful spy agency's influence on the talks process.

At present, the Indian side is unwilling to hazard a guess on whether the ISI will be a part of the talks.

There is, however, a hope on the Indian side about some kind of commitment being made by Pakistan to bring the Mumbai terror accused quickly to justice and to stop the use of Pakistani soil for terror acts against India.

The Pakistani side is of the view that the composite dialogue process should not be held hostage to one case. (ANI)

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