India offers Pak dates this month for talks

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New Delhi:  India and Pakistan may hold talks as early as this month. On Friday evening, Pakistan High Commissioner to India Shahid Malik met Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao for over an hour to discuss possible dates and the scope of the dialogue.

Welcoming India's offer for talks, the Pakistan High Commissioner, after heemerged out of the meeting, said modalities for talks are being workedout. He also said that if India wants to discuss terrorism, Pakistan isokay with that.

"I came to discuss India's proposal; agenda will be decided and dates not fixed yet. There are two or three dates being proposed. Dialogue is the only way forward; will discuss terrorism with India," said Shahid Mailik.

Also, the Ministry of External Affairs said that the Foreign Secretary and Pakistani envoy had constructive discussions. India also made it clear that it is waiting for Pakistan to get back on dates for talks.

The Foreign Secretary called her Pakistani counterpart, Salman Bashir, 10 days ago to invite him for talks. Friday's meeting will determine when those talks should be held. Sources say India has offered two sets of dates for this month.

Sources tell NDTV that the agenda of the talks has not been decided, and that India is "not labeling the talks with any jargon"; India's stand is that "all relevant issues will be discussed."

The meeting in Delhi comes even as Home Minister P Chidambaram's trip to Pakistan, scheduled for later this month, has been postponed. Chidambaram was to attend a meeting of Foreign Ministers of SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation). The Home Minister was expected to meet his Pakistani counterpart Rehman Malik and other leaders on the sidelines.

Once the dates for the Indo-Pak talks are decided, the focus will be on what to talk about. On Friday, there was a second consecutive rally in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir to observe Kashmir Solidarity day. The organisers: the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and the Hizbul Mujahideen, both groups banned by the United Nations for being terrorist outfits.

The occasion prompted old-style rhetoric from Pakistani President Asif Zardari, who re-stated Pakistan's "political, moral and diplomatic support for the just and legitimate struggle of Kashmiris for the realisation of their right to self- determination." Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani added" Pakistan assures the Kashmiri people of its firm resolve to work steadfastly for the realisation of their fundamental rights."

Delhi hasn't reacted to these statements for the moment, but isn't likely to be pleased with their timing. This gives the Opposition in India much ammunition against the government and its offer of talks to Pakistan.


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