India is yet to formally respond to Pakistan's offer. External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid briefed the Cabinet today and, sources said, told his fellow ministers that sustained pressure from India had made Pakistan shift its stance from trying to internationalise the issue to seeking bilateral dialogue. Islamabad had earlier suggested a United Nations investigation into the killing of two Indian soldiers and mutilation of their bodies along the Line of Control last week. India had flatly rejected that suggestion.
Mr Khurshid also reportedly pointed out that Pakistan had only spoken through the media so far and India would decide on any dialogue only after a formal offer from Pakistan's diplomatic channels.
"These are things which you should anaylse, reflect on and take a decision. When we take a decision, we will let you know. Let's just take things a step at a time. We have been through difficult moments. The government will take everything into account. The PM has given a clear indication that we will move step by step. Let's see what is necessary to do and say, there's no hurry," Mr Khurshid told the media today.
Sources said that while India favours engagement, talks might not happen at the ministerial level at all for now. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has made it clear to Pakistan that those who mutilated the bodies of Indian soldiers killed in Pakistani firing last week, beheading one of them, must be brought to book first. That, sources say, will remain India's focus.
Ms Khar, who had earlier accused India of "war mongering", suggested late on Wednesday night that "Instead of issuing belligerent statements by the military and political leaders from across the border and ratcheting up tension, it is advisable for the two countries to discuss all concerns related to the LoC with a view to reinforcing respect for the ceasefire, may be at the level of the foreign ministers."
In New York on Tuesday, Ms Khar had said, "We see war-mongering...it is deeply disturbing to hear statements that are upping the ante, where one politician is competing with the other to give a more hostile statement."
She said this soon after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said there "cannot be business as usual" with Pakistan following the brutal killing of the two Indian soldiers, Lance Naik Hemraj Singh and Lance Naik Sudhakar Singh along the LoC in Kashmir.