India, Pakistan 'optimistic' over talks

17:21, February 26, 2010      

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NEW DELHI: The much awaited India-Pakistan talks, the first after the Mumbai attacks in November 2008, began here yesterday with both sides preferring to take a cautious yet optimistic approach towards the agenda and the outcome of the engagement, said official sources.

Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir met at the historic Hyderabad House, the venue of the official diplomatic talks, and exchanged pleasantries and posed for the cameras before heading in for the talks.

Both India and Pakistan are China's neighbors, and they are two very important countries in South Asia. China is glad to learn that the two countries have resumed dialogue and an improving and developing Indian-Pakistani tie is good for Asia, said Qin Gang, China's Foreign Ministry spokesman. "We hope that the talks will lead to some concrete results and we welcome and support this friendly momentum," Qin added.

The one-day talks in New Delhi is seen as an important achievement that could help Pakistan concentrate its resources on supporting the US in its fight against the Taliban and Al-Qaida.

"We look forward to our talks," Rao told reporters outside Hyderabad House.

"Hyderabad House is a familiar venue. We look forward to a very, good constructive arrangement," a smiling Bashir added.

Indian Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said he was "not very optimistic" about the talks.

The talks have no agenda and either side can bring up any issues it wants to, "but we are not going to enter into substantive talks on every issue," he told the NDTV news channel.

India, which played down the meeting as only "talks about talks," plans to ask Pakistan to give it access to the architects of the Mumbai attacks and will push it to arrest militants and dismantle their networks, Chidambaram said.

While Pakistan is trying seven men on charges they planned and carried out the Mumbai attacks, the militant network blamed for the assault continues to operate relatively freely in the Pakistani city of Lahore.

Pakistan has said it will call for the resumption of comprehensive peace negotiations to deal with everything from the dispute over the Kashmir region to disagreements over shared water resources. India refuses to reopen those talks until Pakistan wages a militant crackdown.

"Nothing may come out of these talks. But at least we have to make the effort to talk to them and bring into focus issues that need to be addressed with a sense of urgency," Chidambaram said. But the Pakistani side has said that it wants to have a discussion on all relevant issues affecting the two countries, including Kashmir and the water dispute.

Upon arrival in Delhi, Bashir said, "I have come here to bridge the differences. I am hopeful of a positive outcome." In a statement made in Islamabad before leaving for New Delhi, he said bracketing the issue of terrorism with talks would be counter-productive since terrorism was an international issue and not an issue restricted to India and Pakistan.

However, there are also reports that India will try to clear the air on all misgivings that have plagued bilateral ties between both countries.

AP-Reuters-AFP

Source: China Daily
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