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|June 30, 1998||
Secretary-level talks may resume after PMs' colombo meet
George Iype in New Delhi
Secretary-level bilateral talks between India and Pakistan are expected to resume only after Prime Ministers Atal Behari Vajpayee and Nawaz Sharief meet on the sidelines of the summit of the South Asian Association of Regional Corporation in Colombo from July 29-31.
Official sources in the ministry of external affairs said that the post-nuclear diplomatic rhetoric between India and Pakistan should actually spur both Vajpayee and Sharief to look for dramatic ways to discuss their fundamental differences in Colombo.
"The high-pitch rhetoric between India and Pakistan after the nuclear tests has come down considerably. We now hope that the secretary-level talks will actually take off after the Vajpayee-Sharief meeting at the SAARC summit," a senior MEA official told Rediff On The Net.
"What the SAARC summit in Male did for New Delhi and Islamabad last year, Colombo may do this year," he added.
During the Male SAARC summit last year, the then Indian prime minister Inder Kumar Gujral and Sharief had given the go-ahead to their foreign secretaries to discuss and settle eight outstanding issues. They were peace and security, Jammu and Kashmir, Siachen, the Wullar barrage project and Tubul navigation project, Sir Creek, terrorism and drug trafficking, economic and commercial co-operation and promotion of friendly exchanges in various fields.
The foreign secretary level talks thus begun in March last year in New Delhi in the background of an informal commitment from Gujral that India was willing to set up a working group on Kashmir.
The foreign secretaries - Salman Haider from India and Shamshad Ahmed Khan from Pakistan -- then met again in June in Islamabad in an effort to set up working groups on the eight issues.
But the third round of bilateral dialogue collapsed in October last year after differences arose on the modalities of the working groups and especially as India asserted that it was not willing to set up a working group on Kashmir.
As India and Pakistan continues the diplomatic shadow-boxing over the bilateral dialogue after two rounds of nuclear tests in May, observes feel it is entirely upon Vajpayee and Sharief to correct the fundamental flaws in the modalities of the proposed secretary level talks.
Three weeks after the nuclear tests, India invited Pakistan for foreign secretary level dialogue in New Delhi. But Pakistan refused the date and venue and insisted that Kashmir should be on the agenda of any Indo-Pak dialogue.
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