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India, Pakistan FS talks today

Islamabad: The Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan are meeting here today for crucial talks on the Kashmir issue and confidence-building measures aimed at boosting the peace process between them that was resumed earlier this year.

Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao is scheduled to arrive in Islamabad this morning for two-day talks with her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir.

They will discuss peace and security, including nuclear and conventional confidence-building measures, the Kashmir issue and promotion of friendly exchanges.

The meeting between the two top diplomats is part of the dialogue process that was revived following a meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani in Thimpu, Bhutan in April last year on the sidelines of a SAARC Summit.

The talks process, referred to as a “full spectrum dialogue”, was resumed earlier this year after a gap of over two years in the wake of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks that were blamed on the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba.

The Foreign Secretaries will hold two rounds of talks, officials said.

They will discuss peace and security-related issues today while the Kashmir issue and promotion of friendly exchanges will be taken up tomorrow.

The talks on peace and security will be aimed at streamlining existing Kashmir-related confidence-building measures, including the system of border crossing points for Kashmiris and cross-Line of Control trade, a senior Indian official said on condition of anonymity.

“The crossing points and cross-LoC trade have helped enhance trust,” said the official, familiar with preparations at the highest level for the talks.

The two sides will also focus on existing conventional and nuclear CBMs and liberalising the visa regime that has remained unchanged since 1974, the official said.

“They will look at the existing CBMs, such as the ceasefire on the LoC and the advance notification of missiles tests, and see how we can proceed,” he said.

The official said both sides should have “reasonable expectations” regarding the talks “because of the complexities involved”.

Asked whether the Indian side would focus on the Mumbai attacks and new revelations made by Pakistani-American terror suspect David Headley about the Inter-Services Intelligence agency’s links to the attackers, the official refused to go into details but said the two countries would proceed with their dialogue but this did not mean that incidents like the Mumbai attacks could take a “backseat”.

The India-Pakistan dialogue process was halted following the November 2008 attacks on Mumbai.

Following the resumption of talks in February, the defence, interior and trade secretaries have met in the last few months while Prime Minister Gilani visited India in March to watch the India-Pakistan cricket World Cup semi-final at the invitation of his counterpart.

The Foreign Secretaries are also expected to review the results of the meetings between the Interior, Commerce and Defence secretaries and finalise dates for the meeting of the two Foreign Minister to be held in New Delhi next month.

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