Arriving for bilateral talks with his Indian counterpart, Ranjan Mathai, Pakistan foreign secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani said that he had been given "a mandate to carry forward the dialogue process with India".
But even before talks - scheduled to be held on July 4 and 5 -- he was reminded that this would require some tightrope walking: As has happened before, eight Kashmiri separatist leaders met Jilani at the Pakistani High Commission.They badgered him over Islamabad's "flip-flop" on the Kashmir issue.
Hardliner Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani complained that bilateral talks were "meaningless until the core issue of Kashmir was resolved".
Indian foreign minister SM Krishna, returning from a visit to Tajikistan, warned that "Pakistan has to do more on the issue of terrorism".
He said Islamabad already had enough evidence against 26/11 terrorist mastermind Hafiz Sayeed.
Jilani, however, struck a constructive note, saying, "Pakistan will support India in its fight against terrorism." Krishna also noted: "The issue of progress on terrorism hasn't held the dialogue process to ransom. We have been talking to Pakistan."
Mathai and Jilani will seek to focus on issues like demilitarisation of the Siachen glacier, easing of visa norms, Sir Creek, Kashmir and other confidence-building measures, including promoting friendly exchanges.
Although the agenda for the foreign secretary-level talks has been fixed well in advance, Pakistan will find it difficult - in the wake of the Abu Jundal arrest - to avoid the focus being on terrorism. Kashmir separatist leaders also seemed concerned their cause would not get the attention required.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said, "We expressed our displeasure over lack of forward movement between India and Pakistan on Kashmir issue."
JKLF chairman Yasin Malik demanded the inclusion of Kashmiris into the talks between the two countries.
The generally positive air, however, was noted by the Indian foreign minister who said, "The acrimony of old times is no longer there."
A marked man
Pakistan foreign secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani's stint in India as acting high commissioner ended on February 8, 2003, when he was asked to leave the country for allegedly funding Kashmiri separatists.
Delhi Police named Jilani — a cousin of the former Pakistan PM, Yousuf Raza Gilani — in an FIR against two Hurriyat activists, who said Rs. 3 lakh had been given to them for then Hurriyat chairman Abdul Ghani Bhat.
The Hurriyat denied the charge.