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India, Pakistan officials meet before S Asia summit

Senior officials from arch-rivals India and Pakistan met in the Maldives on Tuesday as they prepared for a summit of South Asian nations in the remote atoll of Addu, an official said.

world Updated: Nov 08, 2011 19:51 IST

Senior officials from arch-rivals India and Pakistan met in the Maldives on Tuesday as they prepared for a summit of South Asian nations in the remote atoll of Addu, an official said.

Maldivian foreign secretary Ahmed Naseer said foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai and his Pakistan counterpart Salman Bashir met during the meeting of senior officials, but declined to give details.

"They met, but I cannot comment on their bilateral matters and what they discussed," Naseer told reporters after officials met to hammer out a declaration to be approved by their foreign ministers and at the summit.

Naseer said foreign secretaries also discussed greater trade cooperation among members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and said Pakistan's decision announced last week to grant the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India had also figured in their talks.

However, Naseer said they had also decided that any trade concessions agreed within the regional grouping should be better than the existing bilateral trade arrangements.

However, he declined comment on Pakistan's MFN offer to India, the biggest member of the grouping which accounts for a fifth of humanity in one of the poorest regions in the world.

Many smaller members of SAARC, which groups Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, have expressed concern that Indo-Pakistan tensions were hampering regional trade.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani are due to hold talks on the sidelines of the summit on Thursday.

The two prime ministers last met in March when Gilani accepted Singh's invitation to watch the India-Pakistan cricket World Cup semi-final.

They last held formal talks at the 2010 SAARC summit in Bhutan.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since independence in 1947, two of them triggered by their territorial dispute over Kashmir, which remains a major hurdle in any future comprehensive peace deal.

A full-fledged peace dialogue -- suspended by India after the 2008 Mumbai attacks blamed on Pakistan-based militants -- was resumed in February in 2011.