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Trust deficit as India-Pak talks resume

Modest gains, like keeping the dialogue on, and some commitment on terrorism seems to be the best case scenario New Delhi is hoping for at the foreign secretary-level talks with Pakistan on Thursday. Jayanth Jacob reports.

india Updated: Feb 25, 2010 02:10 IST
Jayanth Jacob

Modest gains, like keeping the dialogue on, and some commitment on terrorism seems to be the best case scenario New Delhi is hoping for at the foreign secretary-level talks with Pakistan on Thursday.

<b1>India expects Pakistan to rake up Kashmir, Balochistan and the Indus Water Treaty arrangements. Some "humanitarian and consular issues" — such as the Sikh beheading in Pakistan — will also figure in discussions, government sources said.

Soon after his arrival on Wednesday, Pakistan foreign secretary Salman Bashir met Kashmiri separatists, including Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who told him Pakistan shouldn't run away from its responsibility to Kashmir. "Kashmir is the core issue while water and terrorism are peripheral ones," the Hurriyat hawk later said. Bashir invited him to visit Pakistan.

The sources said New Delhi is entering the talks with an "open mind", is "conscious of the post-Mumbai trust deficit" but is not pre-judging the outcome. It hopes for a decision to carry forward the talks, at least at the same level.

New Delhi hopes there will be some "commitments" from Pakistan on terrorism, but this hope is tempered with realism. "We don't have any unrealistic expectations," said an official.

“I’m not very optimistic,” said Home Minister P. Chidambaram. India is expected to ask Pakistan to widen the scope of its 26/11 probe to cover all masterminds, including Jamaat-ud-Dawa founder Hafiz Saeed, and for a faster trial of arrested suspects. It is likely to bring to Islamabad's notice people like Saeed, said to run a charitable organisation, openly advocate jihad and support terrorist acts.

On the likelihood of Pakistan raising the water row and Balochistan, an official said: "We have honoured the Indus Treaty and on Balochistan, we have nothing to hide." After the talks, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao will host a lunch for Bashir.

(Inputs from Aurangzeb Naqshbandi)