India's concerns over terror and slow pace of Mumbai trial were discussed in the first round of Indo-Pak foreign secretary-level talks dealing with the issue of peace and security during which the Samjhuta bomb blast case also came up with both sides holding "substantive" deliberations in a "forward looking" approach.
Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, who arrived in Islamabad on Thursday morning, and her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir began the first round of talks, which have been divided in three segments with talks on peace and security, including Confidence Building Measures, being held in the first session followed by Jammu and Kashmir and Promotion of Friendly Exchanges on Friday.
"All aspects relating to peace and security have been discussed and terrorism is an issue which is an issue confronting both the countries and of course it's very relevant to peace and security," official spokesperson Vishnu Prakash in the Ministry of External Affairs said.
"They also exchanged views on all issues relevant to peace and security including CBMs that exist between the two countries. A number of ideas were discussed and reflected upon. The talks were substantive, held in very cordial atmosphere and were forward looking," said Pakistani foreign office spokesperson Tehmina Janjua.
When specifically asked whether the trial of Mumbai terror attack and Samjhuta train blast was discussed, the officials said all aspects and issues related to peace and security were discussed.
"All issues relevant to peace and security that also include terror which is very relevant to both the countries were discussed," Prakash said.
The two sides also reviewed the existing conventional and nuclear CBMs. There are two CBMs -- one is on missile notification and the other on the annual exchange of the list of nuclear installations.
There was a positive tone and tenor during the talks, Janjua said. The revelations of terror links of ISI, as revealed in Pakistani-Canadian terror operative Tahawwur Rana's trial in a Chicago court, were also deliberated upon as all aspects were discussed.
During the trial, co-accused David Headley disclosed that he received training by Pakistan's spy agency Inter Services Intelligence for plotting the Mumbai attacks.
The two sides first held restricted talks, which were followed by the delegation-level meeting in which Rao was accompanied by Joint Secretary (Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran) Yash Sinha, Joint Secretary (Nuclear Disarmament) Venkatesh Verma, Indian High Commissioner Sharat Sabharwal and other senior officials.
At the beginning of the first round, Bashir said, "We wish to engage with you in not only walking the trajectory but also exploring new avenues further." "This series of meetings is of great importance," he said.
In the 2007 Samjhauta Express train bombing, nearly 70 people, including 42 Pakistanis, were killed. Soon after her arrival in Islamabad, Rao had said she had come to Pakistan with "an open mind and a constructive spirit" in order to work towards building trust and confidence in bilateral relationship and thereby leading to an eventual normalisation of ties for the well being and prosperity of the people of the two countries.
She said: "this is an important visit as it marks the penultimate leg of the resumed dialogue process before the visit of the foreign minister of Pakistan to India by July 2011" and added that they would discuss the issues that have been mandated to them by their leadership.
During the two-day talks, nuclear and conventional
confidence-building measures would also be discussed. Earlier this year, the two countries decided to resume talks on all bilateral issues under the Composite Dialogue, two years after the parleys were suspended in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks.
Following the resumption of talks in February, the Defence, Interior and Commerce Secretaries have met in the last few months while Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani visited India in March to watch the India-Pakistan cricket World Cup semi-final at the invitation of his counterpart Manmohan Singh.
The foreign secretaries will also take stock of the progress made in the meetings between the Interior, Commerce and Defence Secretaries.
Earlier, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani said that Pakistan was looking for "forward movement" in the ongoing foreign secretary-level talks with India. She hoped that the two countries would not get caught in the status quo mode.
"When you have long-standing issues, there is a great sense of responsibility with it and seriousness of approach. Pakistan has had consistent stand that it is better to talk than not to talk," she told reporters.
"It is better to resolve long-standing issues rather than let those issues fester and become larger than life and affect development and peace of the region," she said.
At the same time, she cautioned that "nobody can expect miracle from any of these talks" as the two countries have long-standing issues. Such issues bring them a "great deal of responsibility" and a need for "a seriousness of approach", she said.
Image: Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao with her counterpart Salman Bashir
Photograph: Ministry of External Affairs