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Top diplomats broach known concerns

Pakistan and India on Tuesday agreed to work together to find common ground and narrow differences, as both sides shared concerns on a variety of issues such as Mumbai attacks and Samjhauta Express bombing. Indian Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar who arrived here as part of his "Saarc Yatra", held talks with Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry and conveyed the Indian leadership's expectations on Saarc and the determination to forge a co-operative relationship with all the neighbours.

The two sides described the talks as positive and constructive, but both the foreign secretaries appeared before the media persons separately. "Naturally, my visit provided an opportunity to discuss our bilateral relations. We remain engaged on each other's concerns and interests in an open manner. We agreed to work together to find common ground and narrow differences," Jaishankar told media persons while reading out a written statement.

He said he also raised the issue of cross border terrorism and the Mumbai attacks with his Pakistani counterpart. "I reiterated our known concerns on cross border terrorism, including the Mumbai case," he said. However, he said the talks were held in a constructive and positive atmosphere. About the tension on the Line of Control (LoC) and the Working Boundary, he said, "We agreed that ensuring peace and tranquillity on the border is vital".

Jaishankar, who is visiting Pakistan for two days after a hiatus of seven months when Indian government unilaterally called off the scheduled foreign secretary level talks last year in August, told the media persons that he was glad to be here as part of the Prime Minister Modi's initiative of a 'Saarc Yatra'. "I conveyed the expectations of our leadership on Saarc and their determination to forge a co-operative relationship with all our neighbours," he said, adding the two sides discussed ideas and initiatives to take Saarc forward.

He further said that Pakistan would be the next Saarc Chair and India would like to work with Pakistan to help Saarc achieve its potential. In a separate media briefing, Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry flanked by Pakistan's High Commissioner to New Delhi and Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam, said he told his Indian counterpart that concerted efforts are needed to resolve all outstanding issues, including the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.

He said discussions that were held in a cordial and constructive atmosphere, covered bilateral and regional issues of mutual concern and common interest, including the Jammu & Kashmir dispute. Aizaz said that he conveyed to his Indian counterpart that the leadership and people of Pakistan were deeply attached to the cause of Jammu & Kashmir and we need to make a concerted effort to resolve this dispute and indeed other disputes like Siachen, Sir Creek and water issues that could also be addressed through dialogue.

The Foreign Secretary said that Pakistani side also raised the issue of the Samjhauta Express terrorist attack and Indian involvement in FATA and Balochistan. According to him, the Indian side also raised its concerns while Pakistan underlined that the global phenomenon of terrorism poses a continuing threat to peace and security. "I reaffirmed Pakistan's strong commitment to eradicate the menace," he said, adding he also underlined that Pakistan was desirous of co-operation from its neighbours, in particular.

He said that both sides recognised that the two countries need to work together to address mutual concerns and make efforts to promote peace and development. "I underline that we need to work together in areas of convergences and address each other's concerns in areas of divergences," he said, adding the importance of continuing dialogue was also stressed.

Responding to a question about resumption of the composite dialogue process, the Foreign Secretary, however, did not specify a timeframe for resumption of formal talks between the two countries, adding both sides expressed their concerns, and will reflect on their discussions before deciding on future course of action soon. "We would like to move as and when both the sides are ready...by remaining in contact we could determine when and how the next steps are to be taken," he added.

About the issue of the situation on the LoC and the Working Boundary, the Foreign Secretary said that he underscored Pakistan's firm commitment to the 2003 cease-fire, and the need to make optimal use of the existing mechanism to maintain cease-fire. On bilateral trade and economic relations, he said that he affirmed Pakistan's commitment to enhancing mutually beneficial trade and economic relations during the talks.

"I also underlined the importance of greater people to people contacts and friendly exchanges in building a relationship of trust and friendship between the two countries," he said adding Pakistan suggested that the two sides should encourage increased people to people exchanges; promote co-operation in various fields including religious tourism; and discourage hostile propaganda against each other.

He said that Pakistan's side emphasised the need to promote media and sports contacts. He said that Pakistan attaches great importance to SAARC, which is an important vehicle for promoting regional co-operation and both the sides agreed on the need to work together to develop the potential of regional co-operation. Discussing the next SAARC Summit, he said that Indian foreign secretary was conveyed Pakistan is preparing to host the 19th SAARC Summit and was looking forward to welcoming the SAARC Leaders.

He further said that the visit provided an opportunity to discuss bilateral relations and to understand each other's concerns and interests. "It was agreed to work together to find common ground and narrow differences," he added. The Indian Foreign Secretary also met Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Syed Tariq Fatemi and Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz. Later, the Foreign Secretary of India also paid a courtesy call on the Prime Minister and handed over to him a letter from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

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