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India, Pakistan play it safe at talks

world Updated: Jun 25, 2011 01:34 IST
Jayanth Jacob

Not letting the core issues - terrorism for New Delhi and Kashmir for Islamabad - spoil the show and agreeing to more confidence-building measures (CBMs) to bridge the 'trust deficit', the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan decided to take forward talks in New Delhi next month.

A joint statement, the first at the foreign office level since July 2009, at the end of the two-day engagement is being seen as the surest sign of a successful round of talks.

During the actual talks, both sides handled the contentious issues with care, but made pointed references to them.

Terrorism came ahead of Jammu and Kashmir in the joint statement, but there was no mention of specifics - the Mumbai attack and Samjhauta blasts.

While Rao stressed that the Kashmir issue couldn't be resolved under the "shadow of the gun", and "extremist violence", Bashir called for addressing the issue of terrorism in a "corroborative manner".

Both sides agreed to continue the discussion on Kashmir in a "purposeful and forward looking manner".

Unlike the July joint statement of 2009 between the two prime ministers in Sharm el-Sheikh, there was no mention of Baluchistan.

With the policy of "narrowing divergences and building convergences" - often heard in the India-China context, there were agreements on several CBMs.

They include finalising a liberalised visa agreement, increasing trade and travel across the Line of Control (LoC), increasing banking linkages, holding of sports tournaments, visit to religious shrines, and cessation of hostile propaganda against each other.

Expanding the horizon to reduce the post- Mumbai trust deficit, both sides have agreed to convene the meetings of experts on nuclear and conventional confidence building measures.

"The ideology of military conflict should have no place in the paradigm of our relationship of the 21st century. Instead, this relationship should be characterized by the vocabulary of peace, all round co-operation in the interest of our people, growing trade and economic interaction, as well as, people to people contacts - and all this, let me emphasize, in an atmosphere free of terror and violence", Rao said.

"There is every reason to be satisfied with the quality of discussions which were very productive and constructive," said Salman Bashir.