Aiming to bridge the trust deficit between India and Pakistan, foreign secretaries of the two countries will meet in Islamabad on Thursday amid India's emphasis that both sides needed to make "dedicated" and "focussed" attempts to address difficulties affecting their relations.
Rao, the first senior Indian official to visit Pakistan since the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, arrived in Islamabad this evening for talks which are expected to be dominated by the issue of cross-border terrorism that has been preventing improvement of ties.
She arrived at the Military Air Base in Rawalpindi, on the outskirts of Islamabad, by a special aircraft. Her counterpart Salman Bashir would host an informal dinner in her honour tonight.
Rao will meet her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir in pursuance of an understanding reached between Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Yusuf Raza Gilani in Thimphu on the sidelines of SAARC Summit that their Foreign Ministers and Foreign Secretaries would discuss ways to reduce trust deficit.
Rao and Bashir would be preparing the ground for the meeting between External Affairs Minister S M Krishna and Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on July 15.
At tomorrow's talks, the Indian side is expected to flag is concerns with regard to continued threat of terrorism emanating from Pakistan, particularly from the outfits like Lashker-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed.
Rao is also expected to press the Pakistani side to bring to book all those behind the Mumbai attacks, including Jamaat-ud Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed whom India considers the "mastermind" but continues to roam freely in Pakistan.
Before her departure for Islamabad, Rao said that the visit was a kind of exploration for reducing trust deficit that exists between the two countries.
Noting that Indo-Pak relations have seen ups and downs and tremendous levels of difficulties for the last 60 years, she said: "We are going there with a clear-eyed understanding of these difficulties and there complexities."
She underlined that the core concern of terrorism was high on her mind as she approaches the talks.
"We are there also with the conviction that if India and Pakistan have to develop, be strong and prosperous and lives of their people have to be improved, then the governments of the two countries have to make a dedicated, focused and sincere attempt to address these difficulties," she told a television channel.
"I can't come before you and say that there is a magic formulae with which we can solve these problems. We can't just wave a wand and expect everything to disappear suddenly. I think we have to clear-eyed and be realistic," she said.