NEW DELHI - Top Indian and Pakistani foreign ministry officials met Wednesday to bolster a fragile peace dialogue undermined by fresh tensions over the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
The meeting between Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai and his Pakistani counterpart Jalil Abbas Jilani stretched to two sessions covering peace and security, confidence building measures and Kashmir.
The two top civil servants in their respective ministries will hold further talks Thursday morning - followed by a joint press conference.
Refusing to divulge any details of the deliberations, the official spokesperson in Indian Ministry of External Affairs Syed Akabaruddin only said the foreign secretaries, along with their respective delegations, have had “two full sessions of detailed discussions covering all aspects of the agenda under the items peace and security as well as Jammu and Kashmir.”
The atmosphere of the talks was soured by India’s recent arrest of Sayed Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal, suspected of being a key handler for the Mumbai attackers. India says Jundal has admitted helping to coordinate the deadly assault from a command post in Karachi, and his testimony has renewed Indian accusations that “state elements” in Pakistan were involved.
Before the two foreign secretaries meet, Indian Home Minister P Chidambaram told reporters that India would not hand Pakistan a dossier on information obtained from Abu Jindal, , adding that Foreign Secretary Mathai had been briefed on the issue ahead of his talks with his Pakistani counterpart.
“We are not handing over a dossier but we have briefed the foreign secretary on information obtained during Jindal’s interrogation. If he wishes, he can share it with his Pakistani counterpart,” Chidambaram told reporters after a cabinet meeting.
According to the sources, during the Mathai-Jilani meeting, India is also understood to have reiterated its concern over the slow pace of Mumbai terror attacks trial in Pakistan.
The foreign secretaries were assisted by senior officials of both sides, including the Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan Sharat Sabharwal and Pakistan’s High Commissioner-designate to India Salman Bashir.
The two sides also talked about confidence-building measures, including trade and travel and nuclear fields.
Thursday’s foreign secretaries’ meeting was to have taken place at the end of last month, but was postponed in the uncertainty that followed the Supreme Court’s dismissal of Yousuf Raza Gilani as prime minister.
The foreign secretaries are expected to lay the ground for another round of talks between their respective foreign ministers - originally scheduled for July 18 but also postponed with a new date yet to be announced.