Post-Gilani, India-Pak to continue secy-level talks

Post-Gilani, India-Pak to continue secy-level talks

Notwithstanding the exit of Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani as Prime Minister of Pakistan following the June 19 ‘judicial coup’, New Delhi and Islamabad are preparing for talks at the foreign secretaries level early next month.

Though the talks between Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai and his Pakistani counterpart Jalil Abbas Jilani were earlier proposed to be held on June 29, sources told Deccan Herald that it would be held in New Delhi early next month.

The two foreign secretaries would discuss humanitarian matters, peace and security, including confidence building measures (CBMs) and Jammu and Kashmir. They will also review the outcome of the talks held so far in the second round of the dialogues that resumed last year after the end of the post 26/11 diplomatic chill.

While India has been closely watching the political developments in Pakistan over the past few days, sources said on Friday that New Delhi would go ahead with the remaining official level talks to complete the second round of dialogue with Islamabad.

New Delhi, however, would take a call on External Affairs Minister S M Krishna’s proposed visit to Islamabad only after assessing the emerging situation in Pakistan. Krishna was expected to visit Islamabad sometime in July or August to review the progress of the talks with his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar.

New Delhi and Islamabad earlier discussed possible dates in September for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Pakistan.

During his day-long visit to New Delhi and Ajmer on April 8 last, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari invited Singh for a visit to Islamabad. Though Singh accepted Zardari’s invitation, he has not committed himself to any time-frame for it.

Progress is must

Islamabad is keen to host Singh by the end of the current year, but New Delhi insists that two countries should make substantive progress in bilateral dialogues first.

Meetings between Singh and Gilani on the sideline of the multilateral summits between 2009 and 2011 helped ease the post 26/11 strain in the bilateral relation. Gilani responded to Singh’s invitation and joined him on March 30 last year to watch the World Cup semi-final between India and Pakistan at Mohali. They again met at Addu in Maldives last November, when Singh referred to Gilani as a “man of peace”.

But retired diplomat Satish Chandra, who served as India’s High Commissioner to Pakistan, said that Gilani’s exit from the Prime Minister’s office was unlikely to make any difference in Islamabad’s engagements with New Delhi. “The parameters of Pakistan’s engagements with India are always decided by Pakistan Army and there is no exception to this even in the current round of talks,” Chandra told Deccan Herald.

Pakistan earlier this year moved closer to reciprocating India’s gesture of granting it the Most Favoured Nation status. But the two neighbours failed to make any significant headway in traditional disputes over Tulbul Navigation / Wullar Barrage project, Sir Creek and Siachen. Pakistan also backed out from signing an agreement with India to liberalise bilateral visa regime in the Home Secretary level talks last month.

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