India and Pakistan on Thursday announced that talks between their foreign ministers would be held in New Delhi July 27. The talks are expected to focus on cross-Kashmir confidence-building measures (CBMs) and concerns over terrorism.
In New Delhi, India's external affairs ministry announced that Pakistan's newly appointed foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar would be visiting New Delhi for the bilateral talks.
"These talks will be preceded by a meeting of the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan on July 26," the ministry announced.
The announcement from Pakistan's foreign office in Islamabad said Khar would visit New Delhi at the invitation of external affairs minister SM Krishna.
Ahead of the talks, the two sides had struck the right notes about sustaining the peace process resumed only in February this year.
There was a long hiatus following the Nov 26-28 terror attacks in Mumbai that froze their engagement and brought ties to a new low.
Issues relating to cross-border terror will figure prominently in the foreign minister level discussions. The two sides are likely to unveil a slew of new CBMs to expand trade and travel across the divided halves of Kashmir, officials said.
Earlier this week, a meeting of the joint working group of India and Pakistan is understood to have firmed up cross-Kashmir CBMs that could be announced after the July 27 talks.
Among the proposals on the table are the launch of the Kargil-Skardu bus link, an increase in the frequency of the Kashmir bus link between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad, and an increase in the number of trading days from two to four across the Line of Control (LoC) that divides Kashmir between the two countries, said informed sources.
Krishna sent a felicitation letter to Khar on Tuesday soon after she was sworn in as foreign minister, saying he looked forward to meeting her in New Delhi and hoped for "friendly and cooperative" ties between the two countries.
In Islamabad, the 34-year-old Khar, Pakistan's first woman foreign minister and youngest person to occupy the key post, met India's high commissioner Sharat Sabharwal and conveyed that the two sides should make the dialogue process "uninterrupted and uninterruptable" to help build trust between two countries.
The talks between Krishna and Khar will take place in the shadow of triple blasts in Mumbai July 13 that killed 19 people and injured over 100.
Unlike in similar blasts earlier, no lead has emerged linking elements in Pakistan and the leadership in New Delhi has scrupulously avoided pointing a finger.
India is, however, expected to convey its concerns over the existing terror infrastructure in Pakistan and underline the need to expedite the trial of terrorists behind the 26/11 carnage, a point made by Krishna during his talks with US secretary of state Hillary Clinton Tuesday.
Following their strategic dialogue, India and the US asked Pakistan to destroy safe sanctuaries of terror in its territory. Clinton also pressed Pakistan to bring the perpetrators of 26/11 terror to justice.
New Delhi is also expected to give to Islamabad a list of some criminals and terrorists who are sheltering in Pakistan and are wanted in India for their complicity in different terror attacks.
Officials of the two sides are said to be giving finishing touches on an agreement on liberalising the visa regime to spur greater people-to-people contacts, said the sources.