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India, Pak agree to restart dialogue

Bandar Seri Begawan, July 2, 2013, DHNS: 2:27 IST
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With Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his new Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif are expected to meet in New York in September, New Delhi and Islamabad on Tuesday agreed to restart the paused bilateral dialogue between the bureaucrats of the two countries soon.

External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and Sharif’s adviser on national security and foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz met on the sidelines of the Asean Regional Forum in the capital of Brunei Darussalam and agreed that the officials of the two countries would hold a series of dialogues over the next two months.

“We hope that the two Prime Ministers can meet on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in September, if not earlier. That will provide greater political impetus to our ties,” said Aziz, as he and Khurshid spoke to journalists after the meeting.

Aziz noted the desire of both sides to strengthen people-to-people ties and boost bilateral trade and economic relation. Aziz also conveyed, once again, to Khurshid Sharif’s invitation for Singh to visit Pakistan.

Khurshid’s meeting with Aziz was the first high-level contact between New Delhi and Islamabad after Nawaz Sharif took over as the new Prime Minister of Pakistan in the first week of June.

India and Pakistan resumed their dialogue in March, 2011, ending a two-and-a-half-year-long diplomatic chill after the November 26-29, 2008, terror attacks in Mumbai.
The officials of both countries had two rounds of dialogue on eight different sets of subjects.

The third round, however, came to a pause after the meeting between the Commerce Secretaries of the two countries in New Delhi on September 21, 2012, particularly due to parliamentary elections in Pakistan. The skirmishes between the armed forces of the two countries along the Line of Control in January and the fatal assault on Indian prisoner Sarabjit Singh in a Pakistani jail in April also cast a shadow over the dialogue process.

Khurshid, however, on Tuesday indicated New Delhi’s willingness to move on and restart
the dialogue with Islamabad. “What is most important is that both sides have the political will to take forward this very important relation between the neighbours and achieve resolution of the issues that are of contentious nature,” said Khurshid. He and Aziz agreed to look for “as many dates as available” in July and August to schedule the talks between the officials. “We want to show specific and concrete results.”

Home and Interior Secretaries of India and Pakistan are expected to meet in New Delhi to hold discussions on issues like narcotics control and counter-terrorism.

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