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Discuss Kashmir, not terrorism, Pakistan tells India

Last updated on: June 23, 2011 02:41 IST

In a seemingly unilateral move, Pakistan has divided the Foreign Secretary-level talks in three sessions. A source said that it was arbitrary, since a bilateral dialogue is supposed to be a highly diplomatic and sensitive event.

Pakistan has conveyed to the Indian side that "peace and security" will be discussed on the June 23 session to be held at 3 pm. An exclusive session on Jammu and Kashmir will be held on June 24, and the third and final session will be on "friendly exchanges", where the issues related to cultural interactions between the two countries will be discussed.

Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir are meeting in continuation of the Thimpu spirit where Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his counterpart Yousuf Gilani met in April 2010, during the South Asian Association For Regional Cooperation summit.

The meeting in Bhutan's capital help put the relations between the two countries back on the peace track, after the fiasco in Sharam-el-Sheikh in 2009. Although, Pakistan has not moved satisfactorily in pursuing justice for the 26/11 Mumbai attack victims, India has taken a policy decision to "continue talking to Pakistan."

Rao is arriving with the mandate from Cabinet Committee on Security, and with an agenda set by PM Singh to continue engaging Pakistan which is going through troubled times.

From Islamabad it seems that as usual, and as expected, things will remain vulnerable between two neighbours. In fact, to have an exclusive session on Kashmir and none on terrorism will be objected by many in India.

In view of Pakistan's clever move, Foreign minister S M Krishna has said that terrorism would be the focus of dialogue with Pakistan.

"Terrorism is going to be one of the issues which will be naturally discussed." he said.

But the true nature of India-Pakistan relations was evident on June 22 at New Delhi airport.

Pakistan's High Commissioner Shahid Malik's flight to Lahore was delayed on Wednesday for few minutes, because he wanted to take on board five Pakistani boys who had been living in Meerut for the last 10 years, and had been fighting visa issues.

The boys had overstayed in India, and could not return because of various legal issues. One of them had died during this period.

But after finally getting their visas after the 10-year bureaucratic delay, they were detained at the New Delhi airport, because the visas mentioned they had to enter Pakistan via Wagha border.

Malik, who was on board the flight to Lahore was livid to find that Indian immigration didn't allow the boys to fly with him. Less than 24 hours before Rao-Bashir talks started, Malik was not very happy with the 'Indians' rigid stance'.

Malik claimed that there was no need to refuse the boys to fly by air because the issue was resolved before the boys arrived at the airport.

Malik told, "It is for India to think why such a thing happened."

Sheela Bhatt in Islamabad