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India, Pakistan resume talks after six-month pause

The two countries resumed their composite dialogue, with both the Foreign Secretaries discussing various bilateral issues, including terrorism, Kashmir and CBMs.
PTI | By Ajay Kaul, Islamabad
UPDATED ON MAY 20, 2008 03:33 PM IST

After a six-month pause, India and Pakistan on Tuesday resumed their composite dialogue with the Foreign Secretaries meeting in Islamabad to discuss various bilateral issues including terrorism, Kashmir and confidence building measures.

Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and his counterpart Salman Bashir held delegation level discussions to review the fourth round of composite dialogue. It was preceded by an hour-long informal talks between the two top officials.

The India side is understood to have voiced concern over cross-border terrorism, the renewed infiltration bids in J-K and firing incidents at Line of Control.

Kashmir, Siachen, Sir Creek and various confidence building measures also figured in the discussions.

Various CBMs were also raised with India pressing for launch of more cross-LoC bus services and early operationalisation of the truck service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad.

The Foreign Secretaries of the two countries discussed the agenda for tomorrow's talks between External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and his counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi here which will mark the first high level contact with the new democratic government in Islamabad.

The fourth round of the dialogue which began in 2004 has been fairly successfully and the Indian side is keen to take it forward with the new government, picking up from where it left during President Pervez Musharraf's regime.

India has said it is ready to address all issues with Pakistan, including Jammu and Kashmir, through talks but noted that atmosphere of peace is essential for the success of the dialogue process.

New Delhi is looking for concrete action by Pakistan for ending cross-border terrorism and infiltration, which have witnessed a spurt recently.

India believes terrorism is a "common concern" for both the countries and that it is in the interest of Pakistan itself to clamp down on the scourge as it has lost former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to it.

New Delhi, however, is clear that terror incidents like in Jaipur should not derail the dialogue with Islamabad.

India, which is looking for the new dispensation's ideas on Kashmir and other issues, has said it will have "positive" and "open" mind during the talks.

The two sides discussed expeditious release of their nationals lodged in each other's jails.

The Indian side is understood to have proposed increasing the frequency of fortnightly Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalakot bus services to make these weekly and launch of Kargil-Skardu and Jammu-Sialkot bus services as part of additional initiatives to increase contacts between people on two sides of the LoC.

The composite dialogue has achieved considerable progress towards normalisation of relations with fourth round being particularly successful.

India is also expecting forward movement on resolving other issues like Pakistan not granting the Most Favoured Nation status to it and visa related problems.

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