India, Pak optimistic about taking dialogue process forward

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Ajay Kaul

Thimphu, Feb 7 (PTI) A day after their meeting hereaimed at restoring the dialogue process, Foreign SecretaryNirupama Rao and her Pakistan counterpart Salman Bashir todaystruck a note of optimism and talked about taking theengagement process forward through a "vision" for thebilateral relationship.

Both Rao and Bashir described their 90-minute meetingas useful and expressed satisfaction over their discussionswhich covered a broad range of issues.

"We had a good meeting, useful meeting. We were ableto discuss a number of issues of relevance with the (Indo-Pak)relationship," Rao told reporters here.

She said her discussions with Bashir were notdominated by any one issue "but we talked about the (dialogue)process and charting the way forward, what the best modalitieswould be" in this direction.

"All in all it was a useful meeting," Rao said, addingthat both the sides had adopted an open and "constructiveattitude." "I''m satisfied."

Asked about the next step, she said, "we need to waitand see."

"We have to wait for this process to mature. We shouldbe optimistic, cautiously optimistic because there are manyissues that remain to be resolved," she said.

Pointing out that the nature of India-Pakistanrelationship had been complex, Rao said, "we have to remainrealistic. We should be aware of the realities."

She emphasized the need for a "vision" for the futureof the relationship and noted that this was the feeling ofPrime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Bashir, she said, had told her that his governmentalso was committed to taking forward the dialogue process onoutstanding issues in a constructive way.

The Pakistan Foreign Secretary separately toldreporters that "there was a broad meeting of minds" during hismeeting with Rao and he had "every reason to be quitesatisfied".

"We have had very productive exchange of views. Wewill be reporting respectively to our governments and thentake it from there," he said.

Asked whether 2007 Samjhauta Express blast issue cameup during the meeting, Bashir was evasive. Rao said "all"outstanding issues were discussed.

Bashir pointed out that when the Prime Ministers ofthe two countries met in Thimphu in April last on thesidelines of SAARC Summit, they had agreed on three things.

"One was to have frequent contacts. We have hadfrequent contacts. The second was that we should make effortto bridge the trust divide. I think, we have to a considerableextent been able to do that. And third was that everythingshould be discussed. That is the format that we are pursuing,"he said.

He said there is consensus at the leadership level andbetween the two foreign ministries that "that is the practicalway forward." .

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