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India, Pakistan officials discuss peace process.

Byline: Nilofar Suhrawardy

NEW DELHI: As a follow-up to the meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari held last month in New York, National Security Advisers of the two countries held their first meeting here yesterday.

Singh and Zardari had taken the decision for this meeting between India's M.K. Narayanan and his Pakistani counterpart Mahmud Ali Durrani.

India voiced its concern to Pakistan on recent increase in border cease-fire violations and the attack on its embassy in Kabul (July 7), for which Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency is blamed. These incidents do not augur well for the ongoing peace process and composite dialogue, the Indian side said during the meeting.

Singh had raised these issues with his Pakistani counterpart Yousaf Raza Gilani in Colombo on the sidelines of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in August. India also voiced its concern about the Indo-Pak dialogue process being under "strain," saying that its future was "uncertain."

Gilani had promised to hold an internal inquiry on ascertaining the involvement of ISI in the Kabul attacks. Against this backdrop, Singh's subsequent meeting with Zardari has played a major role in bringing the Indo-Pak talks back on track. Durrani's India-visit on a positive note adds the needed momentum to the process.

Among the issues, which figured in yesterday's meeting was ways in which cease-fire violations could end. The Narayanan-Durrani meeting also focused on a special meeting of Indo-Pak joint anti-terror mechanism, the decision to hold which was also taken jointly by Singh and Zardari.

Despite the talks being held amid the backdrop of both countries having witnessed a spurt terrorist attacks, clearly neither India nor Pakistan wish to backtrack from the peace process they have embarked on. This is also symbolized by their holding talks on a positive note. Among the first comments made by Durrani, after his arrival here on Saturday on a five-day visit, were:

"I have an open agenda. Friendship is my agenda." Ahead of talks between the two NSAs, Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said: "Durrani is an old friend. We have known him before. We know him and he has an interest in Indo-Pak relations for quite some years. Let us see what we can take forward."

Emphasizing that all issues would be discussed, Menon said: "We will discuss all the issues that concern us. Naturally, that includes what happened in Kabul, that includes the situation in terms of maintaining the cease-fire. We will do that."

Drawing attention to the Indo-Pak joint statement issued after Singh-Zardari talks, Menon said: "You have seen the joint statement and the determination to do something about these issues that affect us all."

With Durrani's visit the derailed foreign secretary-level dialogue is expected to be back on track. Foreign Secretaries of the two countries are to meet in Islamabad for the fifth round of composite dialogue. Menon and Durrani are understood to have a good a rapport as the former was posted in Islamabad as India's High Commissioner in 2003.

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Publication:Arab News (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia)
Date:Oct 14, 2008
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