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Nirupama rao
Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao listens to a question during a joint press conference with her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir at The Pakistan Foreign Ministry in Islamabad on June 24, 2011. – Photo by AFP

ISLAMABAD: India and Pakistan on Friday wrapped up a fresh round of peace talks in Islamabad without any breakthrough other than an agreement to meet again in New Delhi ahead of ministerial talks next month.

The two days of talks were conducted by Pakistani foreign secretary Salman Bashir and his Indian counterpart Nirupama Rao, the highest-ranking career diplomats in their respective ministries.

A carefully worded joint statement listed no concrete agreement other than a commitment to meet again in New Delhi, at a date yet to be announced, to prepare for a pre-arranged foreign ministers' meeting in July.

Nevertheless original plans for separate news conferences were scrapped in favour of a joint appearance. The atmosphere contrasted positively with acrimony at a foreign ministers' news conference in Islamabad in July 2010.

The statement said talks were “frank and cordial” and that both sides intended to continue dialogue in a “constructive and purposeful manner”.

The issues of peace and security, including Confidence Building Measures (CBMs), were discussed in a comprehensive manner. Both sides noted the ongoing implementation of various nuclear and conventional CBMs. They also decided to convene separate expert level meetings on nuclear and conventional CBMs to discuss implementation and strengthening of existing arrangements and to consider additional measures.

The Foreign Secretaries noted that both countries recognised that terrorism posed a continuing threat to peace and security and they reiterated the firm and undiluted commitments which are mutually acceptable, to build trust and confidence and promote peace and security. The dates for the expert level meetings would be determined through diplomatic channels.

The Foreign Secretaries exchanged views on the issue of Jammu & Kashmir and agreed to continue discussions in a purposeful and positive manner with the view to finding a peaceful solution by narrowing divergences and building convergences of the two countries to fight and eliminate the scourge in all its forms and manifestations. They agreed on the need to strengthen cooperation on counter-terrorism.

Both sides agreed to convene a meeting of the Working Group on Cross-LoC CBMs to recommend measures for strengthening and streamlining the existing trade and travel arrangements across the LoC and propose modalities for introducing additional Cross-LoC CBMs. The Working Group would meet in July, 2011.

The two sides also discussed measures for promoting cooperation in various fields including, facilitating visits to religious shrines, media exchanges, holding of sports tournaments and cessation of hostile propaganda against each other.

The Foreign Secretaries agreed that people of the two countries are at the heart of the relationship and that humanitarian issues should be accorded priority and treated with sensitivity.