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Media reflects on talks between rivals

Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, left, shakes hand with her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir before the start of a delegation level meeting, in New Delhi, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2010.
Press reaction to the talks has been far from positive

Newspapers in India and Pakistan have extensively covered the first formal talks between the countries since the Mumbai (Bombay) attacks of 2008.

No breakthrough was expected from the talks in Delhi between Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir.

And there was none, the papers concluded.

"New round, old story", headlined the Hindustan Times newspaper.

"India and Pakistan fell short of bridging the post-Mumbai divide on Thursday," the newspaper wrote.

"During the first official talks in 14 months, New Delhi said Islamabad needed to do more about terrorism. Islamabad said it could only do more if the two sides resumed full dialogue."

"Chill deep but ice breaks: Talks start in public and private", The Indian Express newspaper said in its top story.

"[While] breaking the 26/11 ice, as the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan resumed a long-halted conversation," the newspaper wrote.

Pakistan's Dawn newspaper took a similar line : "India, Pakistan break the ice, but chill remains"

It said expectations had been low but that it became clear "there had been little attempt to address any substantive issues".

The Nation newspaper in Pakistan concluded: "Meaningless talks end in meaningless way."

'Bilateral gulf'

"The absence of a joint statement or joint press conference at the end of Thursday's meeting of the two foreign secretaries clearly meant the bilateral gulf was still enormous," Siddharth Varadarajan wrote in The Hindu newspaper.

The quality and tenor of the meeting itself put a question mark on India's need to engage with a Pakistan that remains unchanged since the 26/11 terror attack
The Pioneer

"But the fact that Nirupama Rao and Salman Bashir spoke of taking small first steps, stopping the "regression" in the relationship and rebuilding confidence and trust suggested their encounter had served its original purpose: of opening a path for a new process of engagement."

"India asks Pakistan to hand over two army officers", headlined The Times of India newspaper.

"India on Thursday asked for 33 terrorists - Pakistani nationals as well as Indian fugitives, including two serving Pakistan army officers... giving three dossiers to [Pakistan Foreign Secretary] Salman Bashir.

"The Pakistan foreign secretary, however, seemed to make light of India's insistence on action against 26/11 masterminds, saying that Pakistan did not want to be sermoned on terrorism."

The paper said India and Pakistan resumed official-level dialogue, but what "started out as a promising engagement in the morning descended into acrimony" after Mr Bashir rebuffed India's demand for action against Lashkar-e-Taiba leader Hafiz Saeed.

"Islamabad shows its claws at foreign secretaries' talks," says The Pioneer newspaper in its top report headlined "Pak snubs India, in India".

"The India-Pakistan engagement on Thursday truly lived up to expectation. Prior to the talks, putting all speculation to rest, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asserted, 'We've encouraged the resumption of direct talks.'

"That India, under American 'encouragement', had rushed headlong into a meeting that was doomed to be an exercise in futility was, therefore, made apparent even before the talks commenced."

The paper said that "there was a renewed aggression in Pakistan's demeanour that could be attributed to the fact that India had blinked first".



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