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Top Pakistani leadership meets after India's talks offer

Pakistan's top leadership has met to discuss the Indian offer for foreign secretary-level talks, with the move being generally welcomed in Islamabad.

world Updated: Feb 05, 2010 15:47 IST

Pakistan's top leadership has met to discuss the Indian offer for foreign secretary-level talks, with the move being generally welcomed in Islamabad.

The meetings involving President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani were held Thursday evening, hours after it was made known in New Delhi that India had formally proposed talks with Pakistan.

Zardari and Kayani first held a one-on-one meeting and Gilani joined them later. Zardari subsequently hosted a dinner that Qureshi also attended.

The meetings, at which issues relating to national security and the ongoing drive against extremism and militancy were also discussed, gained "added significance" as they "took place in the backdrop of the latest Indian offer of talks", Dawn reported Friday.

Presidential spokesperson Farhatullah Babar, however, refused to comment on the meetings.

"But political observers are attaching importance to the meetings at a time when India has formally proposed foreign secretary-level talks with Pakistan. The presence of the foreign minister indicated that the Indian offer of resuming dialogue with Pakistan must have figured prominently in the discussion," Dawn noted.

The foreign office, meanwhile, said on Thursday it had sought clarifications from New Delhi on the proposal for talks.

A senior foreign ministry official told Dawn that clarifications had been sought about the content and agenda of the proposed talks.

"If India dispenses with its traditional inflexibility there is a possibility of moving ahead," foreign spokesperson Abdul Basit said.

"Pakistan has always believed that it is only through genuine and meaningful talks that Pakistan and India can resolve their bilateral disputes. Talks should be all-encompassing and result-oriented. We will, therefore, welcome resumption of the composite dialogue," he said.

Foreign Minister Qureshi told TV channels that depending on the response to Pakistan's queries from India, Islamabad would like an early resumption of talks.

"We would like to restart from where we left off," he said, referring to India freezing the composite dialogue process in the wake of the 26/11 Mumbai terror carnage that India has blamed on elements operating from this country.

Pakistan has admitted that part of the Mumbai conspiracy was hatched in this country. The trial is also underway here of six operatives of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) for their alleged role in the attack, which India says was masterminded by the terror group's founder, Hafiz Saeed.

On Thursday, it was made knownn in New Delhi that India had sent a formal proposal to Pakistan for talks between their foreign secretaries and had pledged to pursue the discussions with "an open and positive mind".

Pakistan was quick to welcome the move, but added that it would not accept anything short of the full resumption of the composite dialogue. Islamabad also emphasised that the talks should be "result-oriented" and cover all outstanding issues, including Kashmir and sharing of the river waters.

New Delhi has, however, made it clear that the talks will focus primarily on counter-terrorism. But it indicated "that other issues that will contribute to creating an atmosphere of peace and stability between the two countries will also be raised", according to well-placed sources in New Delhi Thursday.

"Dates are being discussed for the meeting between the foreign secretaries," the sources said, adding that it could happen later this month.