Top diplomats from Pakistan and India will begin talks today (Thursday) in Islamabad on the Kashmir dispute.
The two-day talks will be the first since the Mumbai attacks in 2008 that stalled the peace process between the neighbours.
The foreign secretary-level talks will be the culmination of a series of engagements between the officials of the two countries under the recently revived composite dialogue.
The parleys between Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir and his Indian counterpart Nirupama Rao will be followed by discussions between the foreign ministers of the two countries next month.
The agenda of the talks between the foreign secretaries has already become somewhat controversial.
Islamabad insists the discussions will focus on three subjects: Jammu and Kashmir, peace and security and friendly exchanges. However, New Delhi says the focus will be on terrorism.
The hardened position by the two sides ahead of the talks has dashed hopes of any major breakthrough.
Earlier this week, the nuclear-armed neighbours had levelled allegations and counter allegations against each other over hampering the humanitarian mission carried out by the two Navies to rescue the hostages of an Egyptian vessel released by Somali pirates.
The Indian foreign minister played down the hype over the talks and cautioned against expecting quick results from the latest efforts to normalise relations.
In a statement released last Monday, Indian Foreign Minister SM Krishna said terrorism has to be dealt with firmly and transparently for the common good of India and Pakistan.
The foreign minister also emphasised the need to bridge what he called a “trust deficit” between the two countries.
Krishna also called on Pakistan to hasten the trial of seven men held by Islamabad for their alleged role in the Mumbai terror strikes. He called the slow pace of the trial a “sad commentary of what is happening there.”
However, Pakistan rejects the assertion.
At her weekly news briefing last week, the Foreign Office spokesperson clearly stated that the foreign secretaries meeting will not be allowed to discuss the issue of Mumbai attacks.
“On counter-terrorism we have already had discussions under the Interior/Home Secretary rubric where all these issues have been discussed. Whenever India provides us fresh information, it is sent to the Ministry of Interior and it is examined by them,” was Tehmina Janjua’s reply when asked about the agenda of the talks.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 23rd, 2011.