India to focus on 'small' trust-building steps with Pakistan | delhi | Hindustan Times
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India to focus on 'small' trust-building steps with Pakistan

delhi Updated: Jul 12, 2010 21:13 IST
trust deficit

India will focus on "small, incremental steps" to build trust with Pakistan before moving on to more contentious issues like Kashmir and also decide the format of the dialogue that broke off after the Mumbai attacks, when their foreign ministers meet in Islamabad on Thursday.

"The government told us it will be focusing on smaller steps to ease trust deficit like relaxation of the visa regime, people-to-people contacts, trade, cross-border trains and buses and the prisoners," a member of the parliament's standing committee on external affairs ministry told IANS on condition of anonymity.

The standing committee, comprising 17 members from the Lok Sabha and 10 from Rajya Sabha, was briefed by Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and other officials of the external affairs ministry last week on the government's approach towards re-engagement with Pakistan.

BJP MP Ananth Kumar, a former cabinet minister during the NDA regime, chairs the standing committee.

The government's view is that while dialogue and terror can't go hand-in-hand, it's important to continue talking with Pakistan as the latter is showing more flexibility in accommodating India's concerns.

"The idea is to keep the window of communication open so that the door to a more substantive dialogue can be opened later," the committee member said.

In the first visit by an Indian foreign minister to Pakistan since the Mumbai mayhem 18 months ago, SM Krishna will travel to Islamabad on Wednesday on a three-day visit to hold talks with his counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

The talks are expected to review the progress made by Pakistan in prosecuting the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack and India's core concerns on terrorist groups targeting Indian interests and assets from Pakistani territory.

All issues will be on the table, including terrorism and Jammu and Kashmir, official sources added here.

India is going into these talks with "an open mind" and the format for future dialogue will be decided across the table when Krishna and Qureshi sit down for talks Thursday, the sources added.

The two ministers are expected to lay out a roadmap for limited interaction between the two countries, which is likely to include meetings between officials and diplomats on issues relating to terrorism, trade, trans-Kashmir trade, culture, people-to-people contacts and the release of prisoners in each other's jails.

Exhorting Pakistan to move beyond the nomenclature, India has made it clear that the forthcoming talks should not be construed as the resumption of the composite dialogue, a point reiterated by Rao after her June 24 talks with her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir.

India's approach to these talks is "incremental" and it will wait to see "concrete action" from Pakistan and the 26/11 trial before enlarging the scope of dialogue, sources said.

The external affairs ministry, on its part, has chosen to keep the content of the talks under wraps, except for saying they are being held according to the mandate given by the prime ministers of India and Pakistan in Thimphu in April.

The two leaders had directed the foreign ministers and foreign secretaries of both the countries to work out the modalities for restoring trust and confidence in the relationship.

The meeting is aimed at "paving the way for a substantive dialogue on issues of mutual concern", the ministry said while announcing Krishna's visit Monday.

The disclosures made by American-Pakistani David Coleman Headley linking some serving and retired Pakistani security officers and Laskhar-e-Taiba to the Mumbai attacks has strengthened India's hand in dealing with Pakistan over the issue of cross terrorism.

The Krishna-Qureshi meeting will build on the talks Nirupama Rao and Home Minister P Chidambaram had with their Pakistani counterparts in Islamabad last month.

During these talks, Pakistan conveyed that it will act with "full force" to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack to justice and to address India's concerns over terrorism.

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