'We are going into talks with Pak with an open mind,' says Nirupama Rao

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Thimpu (Bhutan), Feb.6 (ANI): Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, who is here to attend the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation's (SAARC) Foreign Secretaries and Council of Ministers meetings, has said that India will go into talks with Pakistan on the sidelines of the event with an open mind

Speaking to media ahead of the meeting, Rao said: "We are resuming our contact after an interregnum of some time. We have a number of issues to discuss, and we have always said that dialogue between India and Pakistan is necessary, is a must in fact."

"If we are to satisfactorily resolve the outstanding issues between our two countries, we have a number of outstanding issues. So, we are going into this with an open mind and constructive attitude, and I believe, that my Pakistani counterpart (Salman Bashir) will also have number of ideas to discuss. So, this is going to be an exploratory discussion and, we hope that through this process, we can find a way forward," she added.

Commenting on the ongoing investigations into the 2007 Samjautha Train blast, Rao said: "We have already said investigations are on in Samjautha blasts. It was an act of terrorism, there is no doubt about it, and, when we are ready to share evidence, we have never shied away from the fact that if there is evidence to share with Pakistan, we will share it."

In his comments, Pakistan Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir said: I am here and looking forward to the meeting. And, we are here for the preparation of the engagement between the two foreign ministers. I would not like to make any specific comment. Why do you want to pick up one issue? There are plenty of issues. My expectations are that we should be working towards continued engagement."

However, on the eve of the talks (i.e. Saturday), Pakistan sought to link the Samjhauta Express blast case to the Mumbai attack trial, which was promptly rejected by India.

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

India said the two cases were not comparable, and there were clear leads in the Mumbai incident unlike in the cross-border train attack case.

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

Both Rao and Bashir are expected to discuss the problem of terrorism that is plaguing the relationship, besides some confidence-building initiatives concerning fishermen, people-to-people contacts and trade and commerce.

This will be the first meeting between the foreign secretaries since the July 15, 2010 Foreign Ministers' meeting, which collapsed. The Foreign Secretaries last met at the end of June 2010. By Naveen Kapoor(ANI)

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