India, Pak Foreign Secretaries meet ahead of SAARC summit

India, Pak Foreign Secretaries meet ahead of SAARC summit

Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai met his Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir here as officials from the SAARC group of nations began arriving for the two-day summit that begins on Thursday.

Mathai and Bashir expressed satisfaction on the engagement process. They also discussed matters relating to the forthcoming meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani in the Maldives.

"Both sides reviewed the status of bilateral relations with a view to carrying forward the process of dialogue. They expressed satisfaction on the engagement process," according to a press release from the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi.

"The talks were held in a cordial and constructive atmosphere. It was agreed that stable, normal and predictable relations between Pakistan and India were in the interest of both countries and the region as a whole," it said.

On the issue of Pakistan granting Most Favoured Nation (MFN) trade status to India, Bashir told a TV channel that this will be discussed when the Commerce Secretaries of the two countries meet in Islamabad later this month.

Pakistan Cabinet last week decided to grant MFN status to India but later it gave confusing signals by saying that it was only a move for normalisation of bilateral trade relations that will "culminate" with MFN.

"Our trade Commerce ministers had a successful meeting in New Delhi," Bashir said, adding that both sides will move forward on the trade front.

At the meeting between the two foreign secretaries, the two nations also discussed "regional cooperation under the SAARC framework and agreed to promote this in a holistic manner."

Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India Shahid Malik was also present during the meeting.
This was the first meeting between the two Foreign Secretaries after Mathai took charge in August.

Officials from the SAARC nations also met today to discuss the declaration that will come out of the summit that will see heads of governments of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka hold talks.