The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Talks wishlist to Pak via Washington

New Delhi, Oct. 14: Having expressed its willingness to withdraw troops from the border, India is likely to convey to Pakistan, through America, the steps it expects from the Pervez Musharraf regime that could lead to early resumption of talks.

De-escalatory measures are likely to be the focus of foreign-office consultations between foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal and US under secretary of state for political affairs Mark Grossman when they meet on October 17.

That they meet a day after the crucial deliberations of the Cabinet Committee on Security makes the discussions even more significant.

The Sibal-Grossman talks will be followed by the first Asia-Security dialogue between the two sides which would give them the opportunity to assess and exchange views on important developments in India’s extended neighbourhood.

In the recent past, the George Bush administration had entrusted Grossman with the task of garnering support for Washington’s stand on Iraq.

Though India has already held detailed discussions with the US on developments in Baghdad, the issue might come up again.

“There is no fixed agenda for talks on the Asia Security dialogue. Whatever happens to be the most important issue and is considered by the two sides to be so, will be the main focus of discussion,” a senior foreign ministry official said.

One of the main points of discussion will be the situation in South Asia after the elections in Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan.

Yesterday, deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani had hinted of troop withdrawal sooner than later while making it clear that for resumption of dialogue, Pakistan would have to completely stop cross-border terrorism.

The Bush administration, which lauded the successful conduct of elections in Kashmir, had also indicated that it favoured early resumption of talks between the hostile South Asian neighbours.

Grossman’s meeting with Sibal and other senior Indian leaders might help Washington make an assessment of what Delhi has in mind regarding normalisation of ties with Islamabad.

Apart from Pakistan, the two sides are likely to discuss other developments in Asia, particularly security-related issues that are of importance to both. “Our relationship has matured to such a level that we can candidly discuss any issue that is of concern to us with the other side,” the foreign ministry official said.

Last month, when US assistant secretary of state Christina Rocca was here, the two sides had started their first dialogue on regional security. It reflected their “mutual interest in stability in India’s extended neighbourhood, as also in the wider Asia-Pacific region”.

A meeting on Afghanistan was held in Washington last week for which Arun Singh, the joint secretary heading the Pakistan-Iran-Afghanistan division, was there.

In the next few days, Nalin Suri, the joint secretary who heads the East Asia division, will travel to the American capital to hold talks that would focus mainly on China.

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