Solid foundation laid for sustained engagement with Pak: India

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Priyanka Tikoo and Ajay Kaul

Thimphu, Feb 7 (PTI) India and Pakistan appear set toresume their stalled dialogue after a near-freeze of severalmonths with External Affairs Minister S M Krishna announcingtoday that "a solid foundation" has been laid for a "sustainedengagement".

Krishna, who arrived here for 33rd SAARC Council ofMinisters conference which has been given a miss by hisPakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi, was speaking inthe context of last night''s ice-breaking talks here betweenNirupama Rao and Salman Bashir, Foreign Secretaries of the twocountries.

The ground has appeared to be prepared for the visitof Qureshi to New Delhi expected to be in May, nearly a yearafter a disaster ending of Foreign Minister-level talks inIslamabad.

Both sides refrained from giving any tag to thedialogue whether it would be composite, as sought by Pakistanor comprehensive, as per India. It was obvious that the twosides had come prepared for a positive outcome for theirmeeting.

"The very fact that the two Foreign Secretaries met iscertainly an indication that solid foundation has been laidfor getting the two countries on the sustained engagement,"Krishna said when asked whether progress was made atyesterday''s meeting.

He said "the genesis of all this was the PrimeMinisters, when they met in Thimphu, they mandated the ForeignMinisters and Foreign Secretaries to bridge the trust deficitbetween the two countries. So, all these meetings at the levelof Foreign Secretaries and Foreign Ministers are going toachieve that purpose... building bridges of trust, mutualconfidence, respect and all the other things."

Expressing satisfaction over her talks with Bashir,Rao said both the sides had adopted an open and "constructiveattitude��We had a good meeting, useful meeting. We were ableto discuss a number of issues of relevance with the (Indo-Pak)relationship."

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.

Asked about the next step, she said: "We need to waitand see...We have to wait for this process to mature. Weshould be optimistic, cautiously optimistic because there aremany issues that remain to be resolved," Rao said.

While pointing out that the nature of India-Pakistanrelationship had been complex, Rao said, "we have to remainrealistic. We should be aware of the realities."(MORE) PTIPYK AKK

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