Indo-Pak dialogue to gain momentum in Islamabad next week

     India and Pakistan are gearing up for back-to-back engagements. Foreign secretaries of both countries will be meeting in Islamabad on June 24 to prepare the ground for next month's meeting between Foreign Ministers' SM Krishna and Shah Mahmood Qureshi. Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao's visit will be followed by a visit by Indian Home Secretary G.K.Pillai who will be in the Pakistan capital to attend the SAARC Home Secretaries meeting. This will be preceded by SAARC Home Ministers' meeting, which will see Indian Home Minister P Chidambaram in attendance. Chidambaram is also expected to hold one-to-one talks with the Pakistan leadership on June 26. Both India and Pakistan have acknowledged that a "trust deficit" exists between the two countries, and, while chalking out the agenda for the July 15 Foreign Ministers'meeting in Islamabad next week,Rao and her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir are expected to put in place the measures to reduce this widening deficit. In fact, the mood in New Delhi and Islamabad this time appears to be to work in favor of a realistic and result-oriented dialogue to bridge the communication and interactive gap tha exists between the two nuclear-armed neighbours. Speaking exclusively to ANI at the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) conference in Istanbul last week, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said: "The idea behind this (foreign ministers') meeting is to bridge the trust deficit. We have to sit together and work out the confidence building measures that would bridge the trust deficit." India on the other hand strongly believes that to bridge the existing trust deficit, Pakistan has to shed its insecurities. Speaking recently at the Afghanistan-India-Pakistan 'Trialogue' organised by Delhi Policy Group, Rao said: "We sincerely desire peace with Pakistan. We have to learn to live with the asymmetries in our sizes and capabilities. Such differences of scale should not deter us from working with each other. Pakistan should shed its insecurity on these counts." Despite literal inaction by Pakistan on the ten dossiers provided by India against key suspects of the 26/11 Mumbai terror carnage, the acquittal of JuD chief Hafeez Saeed by the courts and continued operations of anti-India terror outfits like Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Toiba and Lashkar-E-jhangvi allegedly under the tutelage of Pakistani establishment and its spy agency ISI, analysts believe that India is moving ahead boldly to de-pause the composite dialogue process. New Delhi sees a perceptible change in the tone and tenor of the Pakistan leadership and believes that the atmosphere is ripe for talks to take place. Pakistan is eager to see a resumption of the full-fledged composite dialogue, whereas, India is unwilling to get stuck in nomenclature and hesitant about resuming the composite dialogue which was suspended in the fifth round after the Mumbai terror strike in November 2008. Both India and Pakistan have categorically said they will raise all issues of concern during their engagements in June and July. India interestingly has acknowledged that significant progress has been made in the composite dialogue process, especially on the complex Kashmir issue. "Pakistan and India have to reaffirm the progress made during the composite dialogue process between 2004 and 2008," Rao was quoted as saying recently. India apparently is seeking "creative solutions" from Pakistan. Although terrorism would be one of the main issues in the forthcoming talks between officials of the two countries, it not be the only issue. Brief interactiosn have taken place between the leaderships of the two countries since the 26/11 terror strike. Prime Ministers' Manmohan Singh and Yousuf Raza Gilani have had meetings in the Egyptian seaside resort of Sharm-el-Sheikh and in Bhutanese capital Thimphu. Dr. Singh has also met Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg. All of these meetings have focussed on ways to restart the composite dialogue process. Therefore, the forthcoming foreign secretary-level talks should be seen as the first step to bringing the composite dialogue back on track.

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