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Friday, 10 August, 2001, 13:53 GMT 14:53 UK
India and Pakistan back talks
Musharraf and Vajpayee
The first meeting since the collapse of the Agra summit
By Frances Harrison in Colombo

India and Pakistan say they are still committed to the process of dialogue started with the summit between their two leaders in Agra last month.

The comment came after a bilateral discussion between the Indian and Pakistani foreign secretaries on the sidelines of a South Asian regional forum meeting in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo.

The importance of continuing the dialogue process... has been noted by both of us

Chokila Iyer
But the Pakistani delegation said they were waiting for the Indian side to fix dates for the next meeting.

Pakistani Foreign Secretary Inamul Haq and his Indian counterpart, Chokila Iyer, had a one-hour meeting which they said was held in a very friendly atmosphere.

Both sides stressed that the fact that their meeting took place at all indicated their willingness to talk and was in itself a sign of progress.

Building trust

This was the first high-level contact between the two countries since the visit last month by the Pakistani military leader to India for the summit held in Agra.

Indian Foreign Secretary Chokila Iyer
Chokila Iyer: India will continue to engage Pakistan
Indian Foreign Secretary Chokila Iyer said the aim was to build up trust and confidence.

"I think the importance of continuing the dialogue process which was initiated by my prime minister by inviting President Musharraf has been noted by both of us," she said.

She said it was very important that they continue the dialogue process.

"Besides, we also talked of the impediments which are there in improving of our relationship between the two countries, which we will look into."

Chokila Iyer said she also reiterated the Indian prime minister's acceptance of the invitation to visit Pakistan.

Next meeting

No date has been fixed yet for this visit, but Mr Haq said the Indian prime minister was welcome at any time.

There is a determination on both sides to resolve the issues that separate us

Inamul Haq
"In Pakistan we are very keenly looking forward to the visit of his excellency Prime Minister Vajpayee and also the Minister for External Affairs, Mr Jaswant Singh," Mr Haq said.

Pakistan was confident, he said, that the process started in Agra would be continued in further exchanges at all levels.

"There is a determination on both sides to resolve the issues that separate us."

Mr Inamul Haq said Pakistan had also indicated it was ready for a meeting with India next month at the United Nations general assembly in New York.

He said it was up to India to decide on these meetings, though Pakistan hoped they would come about as early as possible.

India appears to be in no hurry to fix dates for the next meeting, though the Pakistani foreign secretary refused to comment on suggestions that he might be disappointed by the current rate of progress.

See also:

15 Jul 01 | South Asia
Positive start to Agra summit
06 Jul 01 | South Asia
India and Pakistan: Troubled relations
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