Amid political crisis, India, Pakistan to hold talks next week


New Delhi : Seeking to project the impression that it’s business as usual even as the government seeks a trust vote July 22, India will launch the fifth round of composite dialogue with Pakistan during their two-day talks that begin Monday.

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Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir comes here Sunday night for crucial talks with his Indian counterpart Shivshnakar Menon the next day.

The two top officials will discuss an entire spectrum of bilateral relationship and hold talks on Jammu and Kashmir and peace and security that will mark the launch of the fifth round of composite dialogue that also covers other areas like the disputes over Siachen glacier and Sir Creek.

The talks take place in the shadow of last week’s car bomb attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul which New Delhi has blamed on Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

Islamabad has denied any role in the deadly blasts that killed four Indians, including a diplomat and military attaché of brigadier rank, and 54 Afghans in the first major attack on Indian assets abroad.

The issue of the alleged complicity of the Pakistani spy agency in the suicide attack in Kabul will figure prominently during discussions between the two foreign secretaries.

Early this week, a team from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) cancelled its meeting with Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), set for July-end, to underscore its concerns at the alleged flow of terrorism from across the border.

The visit was cancelled days after National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan said that New Delhi had “pretty good evidence” of the ISI’s suspected involvement in the car bomb attack on the Indian mission.

Without naming Pakistan, Menon later on said in Kabul that the attack was the work of “our common enemies, of the enemies of our common friendship, and of the enemies of peace in Afghanistan and our region” – a none-too-veiled reference to the Taliban and its alleged mentors across the border.

But in a clear signal that terrorism would not be allowed to hold India-Pakistan talks hostage, joint secretaries from the foreign ministries of both countries started a dialogue in Islamabad Friday on confidence building measures across the Line of Control (LoC) that divides Kashmir between them. The talks included discussion on enhancing trade and transport across the LoC.

With the government here facing a trust vote Tuesday, which coincides with the end of the two-day talks, there is, however, little likelihood of any breakthrough on contentious issues like Siachen and Sir Creek that both sides had said earlier were closer to resolution than before.