THIMPHU: Breaking the ice, India and Pakistan on Thursday decided to resume dialogue at the level of foreign ministers as Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Yousuf Raza Gilani met here in their first substantive engagement in less than a year.
During their meeting, Singh and Gilani decided that the channels of dialogue between the two countries should be kept open to restore "trust and confidence" in the bilateral relationship.
This was their first meeting after their dialogue in Sharm-el-Sheik in Egypt on July 16, 2009 following which a major controversy had broken out in India on the contents of the joint statement.
Terrorism and the "slow progress" of Pakistan's probe into Mumbai attacks formed part of the agenda of the discussions which were held at the 'Bhutan House' here on the margins of the SAARC Summit. The two leaders first met accompanied by their delegations which was followed by a one-on-one meeting and then again by delegations.
"The prime ministers held very good talks in a free and frank manner. They agreed that cooperation between the two countries is vital for the people of South Asia to realise their destiny," foreign secretary Nirupama Rao told reporters.
"Prime Minister expressed India's concern over the slow progress of Mumbai trial in Pakistan to Prime Minister Gilani," Rao said.
Singh told Gilani that India was willing to discuss all issues of mutual concern through dialogue but the issue of terrorism is holding back the progress, she said.
It was decided by the two prime ministers that foreign ministers and foreign secretaries of the two countries should meet as soon as possible to "restore trust and confidence" in the relations, said Rao.
Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told a news conference that the meeting between the two leaders ended on a positive note and he would be engaging with his Indian counterpart S M Krishna at an appropriate time.
He also welcomed home minister P Chidambaram to Islamabad on June 26 for the SAARC home minister's conference.
Qureshi said the meeting has "changed the climate" between the two countries.
Asked whether the foreign ministers-level talks amounted to resumption of the Composite Dialogue process between the two countries, Rao said she does not want to get into details about the nomenclature of the talks.
To another question, she declined to go into details of the issues that would constitute the talks, saying "all concerns" would be discussed.
Rao said Gilani also assured Singh that Pakistan's territory would be not be allowed to be used for terrorism directed against India.
She said the two leaders agreed that the foreign ministers would be charged with the responsibility of working out the modalities of creating trust and confidence in the relationship for a substantive dialogue "in which all matters of concern" would be discussed.
After their Sharm-el-Seikh meeting, Singh and Gilani had met a couple of times in Washington but it was just for handshake.
The Joint Statement after the Sharm-el-Sheikh meeting had created a storm in India with the opposition attacking the government as it appeared to delink resumption of dialogue and Pakistan's action against terrorism, especially those involved in the Mumbai attacks.
It had also made a reference to Balochistan, where Pakistan alleges India is fomenting trouble.
Asked whether Balochistan was discussed during today's meeting, she said it was not raised.
"To the best of my knowledge, the issue was not raised. But we hope that Pakistan is well aware that India does not interfere in the internal affairs of either countries," she said.
Rao said there was no evidence to suggest India's involvement in Balochistan.
The foreign secretary said the Prime Minister told Gilani that Pakistan has to control and eliminate the "terror machine" that operates from its soil.
She said the two leaders felt that for progress in normalisation of relations dialogue was the only way forward in the interest of the people of two countries and the region.
Asked about the dates for the meeting, Rao said the two sides have not agreed on the schedule for the talks, but the instructions of the two Prime Ministers are that the foreign ministers and foreign secretaries should meet as soon as possible.
To a question why the two sides did not hold a joint press conference, Qureshi said "I don't think either side was expecting such a positive turn today. But I can assure you very soon I can provide a joint interaction."
"It was a very positive meeting. A step in the right direction," Qureshi said.
Qureshi said the two prime ministers had acknowledged the "trust deficit" between the two countries.
India, Pakistan decide to resume dialogue at ministers' level - India - The Times of India