Setting Tones for Talks: Pak Minister Meets Indian Envoy in Islamabad

Two days after US Under Secreatary Willian Burns met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with President Barack Obama’s personal letter to Singh, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik called on Indian High Commission Sharad Sabharwal in Islamabad today, indicating that Pakistan is readying background for resumption of bilateral dialogue with India. 

Dismissing the reports, Indian Foreign Secretary Shiv Shanker Menon, however, said that India’s stand on the issue is clear that it will not restart talks unless Pakistan consents to India setting the pace and agenda of dialogue, in particular discussion on dismantling of terror networks in Pakistan and punishing 26/11 perpetrators.

“I think… he (Sabharwal) was quite clear, what he said was that they (India) would welcome it (talks) but that the pace, timing content of it is up to us,” stated Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon.

In Islamabad, Malik assured the Indian High Commissioner Sharad Sabharwal of Pakistan government’s “committed” to ensure action against any perpetrators of the 26/11 attacks on Pakistani soil, and said that India must pose trust in the government to fulfill this assurance.

According to reports, the Indian High Commissioner on his part had communicated New Delhi’s concerns over the release of Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed. He is also believed to have stated that stalled dialogue could not resume until Pakistan punished those involved in the Mumbai terror attacks.

The Indian High Commissioner also said Pakistan must dismantle the terror network on its soil for the negotiations to begin.

While Malik said that the Indian Government should trust Pakistan as the government there was “serious” about investigating the Mumbai attacks, reiterating the line that good India-Pakistan ties were crucial to lasting peace in the South Asian region.

About Hafiz Saeed’s release, Malik said that the release had been as per due process of an independent judicial trial. However, he said that the Punjab provincial government had hinted that they would file a review petition against the earlier release of Saeed by the review board of the Lahore High Court.

Both discussed trade volumes between the two countries in a congenial atmosphere, according to observers.

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