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ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office said on Thursday that sincerity was critical for normalisation of relations between Pakistan and India.

“Normalisation of relations between Pakistan and India will require sincere efforts, good faith and commitment from both countries,” Foreign Office spokesman Nafees Zakaria said at his weekly media briefing.

His comments came a day after Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan Gautam Bambawale told media that his country was ready for talks with Pakistan.

The two countries had agreed in December last to resume their bilateral peace process under the name of ‘Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue’ (CBD), but no progress could be made in that direction because of the Pathankot attack.

A meeting of foreign secretaries to decide the timetable of CBD could not be scheduled as yet.

It was hoped that Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry’s visit to Delhi last month to attend the Heart of Asia senior officials meeting, on whose sidelines he also met his Indian counterpart S. Jaishankar, would be an ice-breaker, but no progress could be achieved then.

Secretary Chaudhry returned after telling Mr Jaishankar that Pakistan “remained ready for dialogue, whenever India agrees to it”.

At the briefing, Mr Zakaria said that “the dialogue process will not be a concession from one side to the other but a modest modus vivendi in inter-state relations”.

He, however, noted that there were still no dates for the foreign secretaries’ meeting on the CBD.

“Both sides contact each other at various levels. Once there are indications for an agreed date, we will let you know,” the FO spokesman said.

F-16s Jets

In a bid to contain the damage caused by the row over Congressional hold on financing of F-16 sale deal out of Foreign Military Financing programme, the spokesman said that the relationship was much bigger than just the F-16 sale.

“You would have to see this in the light of the Pakistan-US bilateral relationship which is much larger and broader than the F-16 issue,” he maintained.

Mr Zakaria’s comments followed statements from Pentagon and State Department that emphasised mutual interests binding the two countries, particularly the fight against terrorism.

The White House, though in the context of Coalition Support Fund reimbursements, has also written to Congress to review the restrictions, besides expressing concerns that the move could complicate progress in bilateral relations.

“We need to wait and see the outcome of the F-16 issue. Our efforts remain on,” the spokesman said.

Mr Zakaria also rejected concerns that Pakistan had not adequately acted against the Haqqani Network.

“Pakistan has undertaken a non-discriminatory military action in North Waziristan and Pakistan’s sincerity cannot be doubted in this regard. Doubting Pakistan’s intention is not only wrong, it also strengthens those elements who do not want to see peace in Afghanistan,” he said.

Responding to a question about mistrust between Pakistan and Afghanistan, the spokesman said that differences would only serve the interest of adversaries.

Published in Dawn, May 20th, 2016