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Menon meets Gilani, Bashir ahead of India, Pak PMs meeting

July 16, 2009 01:26 IST

Ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's meeting with his Pakistan counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani, India on Wednesday sounded positive on continuing talks but said there were some "difficult" issues still remaining and Islamabad needed to take credible action to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks to justice.

Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon, who held several rounds of meetings with his Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir, said the "talks are continuing", indicating some forward movement. Menon also had a meeting with Gilani who will meet Singh on Thursday. "There is no way but dialogue to deal with issues either to take the relations forward or to address issues that divide us," he said however adding "we have had difficult issues in the past and we still have difficult issues to address". Describing India's relations with Pakistan as "stressed", Menon told reporters that both sides know that there is a problem which has to be dealt with. Menon said India has made it clear to Pakistan that it has to bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai attack to justice and take credible steps to dismantle terror infrastructure on its territory.

Menon described his talks with Bashir as "good and detailed" but was unwilling to says whether they were satisfactory. We are still in the process of talking". The Foreign Secretary said the issue of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim and other fugitives in Pakistan was raised during the discussions. The release of LeT founder and JuD chief Hafiz Sayeed, mastermind of the Mumbai attacks, was also taken up with the Pakistan side, he said. He said New Delhi was looking for clarity following reports that the Punjab provincial government had withdrawn its appeal in the court against Saeed's release.

Bashir talked of a "tall order" after his 90-minute meeting with Menon in the small hours of Tuesday, shortly after the Indian official landed from Paris. "We want to have a broad-based engagement. We want to turn the corner in our relationship. We have agreed to continue our conversation. There is a tall order. It is uphill. Pakistan is prepared," Bashir said on his meeting with Menon in which they discussed all bilateral issues. Sounding positive on the Indo-Pak engagement in this sea resort town, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said "Well, I think there is less acrimony now now. Even the statement made by Pakistan in the ministerial conference was a mild on and perhaps it might be the harbinger of the kind of relationship between the two countries which is in mutual interest."

V Mohan Narayan in Sharm El Sheikh
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