Pakistan said on Tuesday it sought a meaningful dialogue with India, even as it had given China a "blank cheque" for sub-continental mediation - a notion that India immediately shot down.
"Pakistan would welcome any role given to China, because of the trust and confidence we enjoy among each other", Associated Press of Pakistan quoted Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi as saying in Beijing, adding "they have a blank cheque".
"It is for the Indians to decide if they would be comfortable to have China talking as a third party to bridge the gap," Qureshi said in a speech at a China Institute of International Studies.
India was quick to react, with Defence Minister AK Antony saying in New Delhi: "There is no place for a third country in our talks... only bilateral."
Noting that "Pakistan wants a meaningful dialogue with India", Qureshi said the talks between the foreign secretaries of the two countries in New Delhi on Thursday would be an exploratory meeting.
"We have to see what comes out of the meeting on February 25," he said while responding to a question after delivering his speech.
Pakistan was showing a constructive approach and if India also exhibits the same spirit, "obviously the progress will be made", he observed.
Qureshi, however, made it clear that if India restricts the agenda of the talks or tries to narrow them down, "much progress will not be achieved".
He said that Pakistan was never shy of talking with India and regretted that New Delhi had "unilaterally" frozen the composite dialogue in the wake of the "unfortunate and tragic" 26/11 Mumbai attacks.
Pakistan, Qureshi said, recognised the significance and the progress made through the composite dialogue. Both sides had completed four rounds while the fifth round was to be initiated.
"After 14 months, they have re-engaged with us and have invited us for a dialogue", he noted, adding that all issues of concern to both sides should be brought on the table so that the dialogue is serious and meaningful.