India, Pak Foreign Secretaries meet in Thimphu tomorrow

Ajay Kaul

Thimphu, Feb 5 (PTI) Six months after failure oftalks, India and Pakistan will make a fresh attempt to"unlock" the bilateral dialogue process when Foreign SecretaryNirupama Rao and her counterpart Salman Bashir meet heretomorrow during which the Indian side is expected to seek anupdate on 26/11 probe and trial.

On the eve of the talks, Pakistan sought to link theSamjhauta Express blast case to the Mumbai attack trial butthis was promptly rejected by India.

Pakistan said India "needs to bridge the gap betweenwhat it says and what it does" juxtaposing New Delhi''s slowhandling of the 2007 Samjhauta blast case with its insistenceon a quick trial for the Mumbai attack accused.

India hit back, saying the two cases were notcomparable, and there were clear leads in the Mumbai incidentunlike in the cross-border train attack case.

India is going for the "exploratory" talks with"cautious optimism" and "reasonable expectations" andexpressed its willingness to discuss all outstanding issueswith Pakistan, but by a step-by-step approach.

Rao and Bashir, who are here for the SAARC meeting ofForeign Secretaries and Council of Ministers, are expected todiscuss the problem of terrorism that is plaguing therelationship, besides some confidence-building initiativesconcerning fishermen, people-to-people contacts and trade andcommerce.

This will be the first meeting between the ForeignSecretaries since the last one in Pakistan in July last yearwhich ended in a failure.

"Our attempt is to unlock the dialogue process and findthe right path to move ahead," sources said here today whilepointing out that India has been trying so even after theMumbai attacks.

Pakistan gave clear indications today that it will rakeup the Samjhauta issue at tomorrow''s meeting.

The Indian side said it is ready for this but it doesnot want to pre-judge whether it would upset the talks. Indiais also expecting Pakistan to raise the Kashmir issue.

On its part, India would strongly take up the issue ofcross-border terrorism and seek an update on the Mumbaiattacks case and efforts, if any, made by Pakistan todismantle the terror infrastructure.

"During a dialogue, both sides raise the issues ofconcern to them. Surely, Pakistan will raise issues thatconcern it, we will raise issues that concern us," the sourcessaid.

They made it clear that India, as declared by PrimeMinister Manmohan Singh, is willing to discuss all outstandingissues with Pakistan in a step-by-step manner if its concernson terrorism are addressed.

"We are clear that dialogue is the best way forward.

So we need to engage Pakistan and we are doing so," thesources said. .

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