India, Pak talks continue amid high expectations

Last Updated 15 July 2010, 10:09 IST

A senior Indian official said there was "good news" to report after a Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman announced that the joint media briefing of ministers of S.M. Krishna of India and Shah Mahmood Qureshi had been postponed till evening.

Both Indian and Pakistani sources said the discussions were proceeding positively notwithstanding differences on some of their known positions.
Krishna and Qureshi had been expected to end their interaction by afternoon and then address the press.

But it was announced that the media briefing would take place only at 6 p.m., triggering a disappointing roar from the Indian, Pakistani and foreign journalists packing the briefing hall in the foreign ministry here.

Official sources said Krishna would stick to his schedule of calling on Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari before returning to the foreign ministry for another round of discussions.

In a related development, Pakistan's powerful army chief, General Parvez Ashfaq Kayani, met Gilani before the two foreign ministers called on the Pakistani prime minister.
Thursday's meeting is the most significant bilateral interaction since the prime ministers of India and Pakistan decided in Bhutan in April to normalise a relationship hit badly after Pakistani terrorists ravaged Mumbai in 2008.

However, despite their vocal commitment for a new beginning, major areas of differences persist between the two nuclear rivals of South Asia.

Some of this was evident when the soft-spoken Krishna underlined after his arrival here Wednesday India's need to see Pakistan act firmly on confessions by terror suspect David Coleman Headley, a Pakistan-born American.

Indian officials now say that the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba was not alone when 10 of its members sneaked into Mumbai by the sea and killed 166 Indians and foreigners, and that the Pakistani intelligence was very much involved.
Pakistani officials have denied the charge.

The talks took place in the backdrop of increased infiltration of armed militants from Pakistan into Jammu and Kashmir, and the killing of about 15 people in firing by security forces in the valley, whipping up emotions n Pakistan.
Indian and Pakistani officials believe the two countries can still take some steps to improve their relations.

This includes easing their tight visa regime, promoting more people-to-people contacts, increasing border trade including across Jammu and Kashmir, upping the number of train and bus links, and making prisoner swaps easier.

On Wednesday night, Pakistan Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira told Indian journalists: "It is time for India and Pakistan to pursue the peace process, to put the peace process back on track. We are handcuffed by history and chained by future."
On Friday, before leaving for home in the evening, Krishna will meet delegations from the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM), the Awami National Party (ANP) and the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

(Published 15 July 2010, 09:59 IST)

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