Islamabad: With the joint motive of strengthening the bond between the two countries, India and Pakistan on Thursday started their two-day Foreign Secretary level talks and discussed the issues of peace and security, including confidence building measures on Kashmir.

Foreign Secretary, Nirupama Rao and her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir began the first round of talks, which have been divided in three segments.

The first round of parleys is dealing with the issue of peace and security, including confidence-building measures on Kashmir. On Friday, two more rounds will take place on the issues of Jammu and Kashmir and promotion of friendly exchanges.
     
At the beginning of the talks, Bashir said they were approaching the parleys with a "Great sense of confidence, optimism and determination." Agreeing with him, Rao said this
was an "apt" statement.

Bashir said this is an important point in the relationship and will also help the two sides to prepare the agenda for the ministerial meeting in the near future.

Rao said "We have a clear agenda in front of us for discussions" and noted that there have been good meetings in the past few months.
     
"We are approaching these talks with an open and constructive mind," she said.
     
The two sides first held restricted talks, which were followed by the delegation-level meeting in which Rao was accompanied by Joint Secretary (Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran) Yash Sinha, Joint Secretary (Nuclear Disarmament) Venkatesh Verma, Indian High Commissioner Sharat Sabharwal and other senior officials.
 
Warmly welcoming the Indian side, Bashir said "We wish to engage with you in not only walking the trajectory but also exploring new avenues further."
     
"This series of meetings is of great importance," he said.
     
Soon after her arrival in Islamabad, Rao had said she had come to Pakistan with "an open mind and a constructive spirit" in order to work towards building trust and confidence in
bilateral relationship and thereby leading to an eventual normalisation of ties for the well being and prosperity of the people of the two countries.
     
She said "this is an important visit as it marks the penultimate leg of the resumed dialogue process before the visit of the Foreign Minister of Pakistan to India by July 2011" and added that they would discuss the issues that have been mandated to them by their leadership.
     
During the two-day talks, nuclear and conventional confidence-building measures would also be discussed. Earlier this year, the two countries decided to resume talks on all bilateral issues under the Composite Dialogue, two years after the parleys were suspended in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks.
     
Following the resumption of talks in February, the Defence, Interior and Commerce Secretaries have met in the last few months while Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza
Gilani visited India in March to watch the India-Pakistan cricket World Cup semi-final at the invitation of his counterpart Manmohan Singh.
     
The Foreign Secretaries will also take stock of the progress made in the meetings between the Interior, Commerce and Defence Secretaries.

Pak for 'forward movement'
Pakistan said it was looking for "forward movement" in the ongoing Foreign Secretary-level talks with India, hoping that the two countries would not get caught in the status quo mode.
     
"When you have long-standing issues, there is a great sense of responsibility with it and seriousness of approach. Pakistan has had consistent stand that it is better to talk than not to talk," Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani told reporters responding to questions on the Indo-Pak Foreign Secretary-level meeting here.
     
"It is better to resolve long-standing issues rather than let those issues fester and become larger than life and affect development and peace of the region," she said.
     
On the ongoing Indo-Pak talks here, Rabbani said "we are looking for forward movement and I think as long as we have some forward movement to report back which we had from Interior Ministers' and other meetings so far, we should be somewhat happy with the outcome.

"What we don't want is to get caught in the status quo mode where we just reiterate our positions. Hopefully, this meeting will give us more confidence to move forward."
     
When pointed out that there was a conflict over the issues of core concerns between the two countries with India calling terrorism as its prime concern and Pakistan sticking
to Jammu and Kashmir, Rabbani said "both can meet if both agree that terrorism and Jammu and Kashmir are the core concerns." "If Kashmir is not core concern, then what is core concern?" Rabbani asked.
     
"Terrorism is not only the core concern for India and Pakistan, rather for Afghanistan and entire region," she said. "We are willing to address our core concerns and the concerns of others."
     
She advocated the need for moving away from the stated positions and adopting a pragmatic approach if the two sides want to talk like responsible neighbours who want to live in peace.

PM has betrayed people: Sushma
The BJP criticised Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for going ahead with Indo-Pak talks although he promised that no talks will be held with the western neighbour till it does something "solid and substantial" regarding the 26/11 Mumbai attacks.
    
Senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj charged the Prime Minister with "betraying" the people by allowing the foreign secretary-level talks.
      
"It is the promise of the Prime Minister to the electorate of this country. Before elections, he said unless something solid and substantial is done by Pakistan on this issue, we will not hold talks. But he has betrayed the people by holding these talks," she told reporters.
      
The BJP had told the PM in "very plain words" that unless cross-border terrorism is stopped, there was no point in holding talks. "But still they are holding talks," the Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha said.

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(Agencies)