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Kasuri-Menon meet flayed in Pakistan

It has sparked a debate in the Foreign Office with some officials taking exception to it and saying it had undermined Islamabad's position.

india Updated: Aug 09, 2006 18:34 IST
Press Trust of India
Press Trust of India

Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri's meeting with Indian High Commissioner Shivshankar Menon this week to discuss the status of bilateral ties has sparked a debate in the Foreign Office, with some officials taking exception to it and saying it had undermined Islamabad's position.

On Monday, Menon called on Kasuri in the Foreign Office and held informal talks on the status of India-Pakistan ties in the aftermath of the last week's expulsion of the visa counsellor of the Indian High Commission, Deepak Kaul, to which India retaliated by expelling the political counsellor of the Pakistani mission in New Delhi.

Kasuri's decision to meet Menon has been criticised by certain quarters that claimed it had negated diplomatic norms.

Menon should have called on the foreign secretary and not the foreign minister, Pakistani daily The Nation quoted unnamed officials as saying.

They also said Kasuri should have refused to see the envoy particularly when "Indians were stabbing us in the back", the report said.

Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam declined to react to the criticism of the Kasuri-Menon meeting, saying she would not like to comment on a newspaper report.

Aslam also declined to comment on the meeting itself.

One official was quoted by The Nation as saying that New Delhi was not willing to resume formal talks even though it had resolved with Pakistan that no act of terror would derail the composite dialogue and that the peace process was "irreversible".

An official said the expulsion of diplomats by the two countries was "an act in desperation" as the involvement of diplomatic staff in "practices incompatible to their status" - a euphemism for spying - was not something new and had happened even the last three years when both sides were engaged in normalising their relations.

The report also said the Foreign Office's policy managers had invited former diplomats with expertise in Indian affairs for discussions "to find a way out of the quagmire".

Kasuri was expected to brief President Pervez Musharraf on these deliberations, it said.

However, Aslam said no such meeting of former diplomats had taken place as reported.

Indian High Commission officials said the meeting with Kasuri was part of routine informal meetings Menon periodically has with the minister and other officials of the Pakistan government.

The informal talks focussed on a host of issues and Menon reportedly conveyed strong reactions in India to the expulsion of Kaul and the treatment meted out to him.

Kaul was blindfolded and questioned by Pakistani officials before he was expelled.

The officials said no fresh dates had been proposed at the meeting for the foreign secretary-level talks to wrap up the third round of the composite dialogue process, which was put off following the July 11 bomb attacks in Mumbai.

First Published: Aug 09, 2006 18:12 IST