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Indo-Pak Foreign Secretaries to meet in Bhutan

world Updated: Jan 08, 2011 14:22 IST

Foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan will meet on the sidelines of an upcoming SAARC Council of Ministers meeting in Bhutan to explore ways to take forward the stalled peace process between the two countries, official sources said on Saturday.

Pakistan will decide on accepting India's standing invitation for foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi to visit New Delhi after assessing the outcome of the talks between the foreign secretaries in Thimphu on the margins of the SAARC meet, which is expected to be held in February, the sources in the Pakistan government said.

They said that Pakistan had decided to accept an Indian proposal for talks between the foreign secretaries on the sidelines of the meeting of foreign ministers of SAARC countries.

No dates have been announced as yet for the regional meeting though it is expected to be held in the first week of February.

Foreign minister Qureshi, who was invited to New Delhi by his Indian counterpart S M Krishna in July 2010, has said that he will go ahead with the visit only if it results in "substantial, meaningful and result-oriented talks."

The visit was originally scheduled for November in 2010 but was put off due to the ongoing chill in bilateral ties.

Pakistan foreign office spokesman Abdul Basit told the media on Friday that Pakistan is willing to engage in talks with India but an agenda should first be chalked out by the foreign secretaries of both countries.

India suspended the composite dialogue process in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks in November 2008.

The terrorist assault on India's financial hub was blamed on Pakistan-based Lashker-e-Taiba and its front, Jamaat-ud-Dawah.

Since then, India has linked the resumption of the peace process to Pakistan taking action against the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks and dismantling terrorist infrastructure based on its soil.

The upcoming meeting of the two foreign secretaries will be the first one since September 2010, when they met in New York on the margins of the UN general assembly session but were unable to make any headway in their talks.

Pakistan has been insisting on a roadmap for future engagements on issues like Kashmir, the military stand-off on Siachen glacier and differences on sharing of river waters.

India has indicated it favours a phased approach, with terrorism being among the top priorities.

External affairs minister Krishna on Friday renewed his invitation for Qureshi to visit New Delhi.

The two foreign ministers last met in Islamabad in July 2010 but their talks ended inconclusively.