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Indo-Pak talks turn to Kashmir

Islamabad: India and Pakistan on Friday discussed Jammu and Kashmir during the crucial Foreign Secretary-level talks here, a day after Islamabad insisted that it remained the "core" issue for it.

Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, who arrived here yesterday on a two-day visit, began talks with her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir on Kashmir.

The two-day talks have been divided in three segments under which the issue of peace and security, including confidence building measures, was discussed yesterday. After Jammu and Kashmir, the talks will be held on promotion of friendly exchanges.

Today, the two sides first held restricted talks in which Rao was accompanied by Indian High Commissioner Sharat Sabharwal and Joint Secretary (Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran) Yash Sinha, which were followed by the delegation-level parleys.

Pakistan`s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani said last evening that her country was looking for "forward movement" in the ongoing Foreign Secretary-level parleys, hoping that the two sides would not get caught in the status quo mode.

"What we don`t want is to get caught in the status quo mode where we just reiterate our positions. Hopefully, this meting will give us more confidence to move forward," she told reporters.

When pointed out that there was a conflict over the issues of core concerns between the two countries with India calling terrorism as its prime concern and Pakistan sticking to Jammu and Kashmir, Rabbani said "both can meet if both agree that terrorism and Jammu and Kashmir are the core concerns."

"If Kashmir is not core concern, then what is core concern?" Rabbani asked.

During the first round of talks yesterday, India`s concerns over terrorism and slow pace of Mumbai trial were discussed. The Samjhuta bombing case also came up, with both sides holding "substantive" deliberations in a "forward looking" approach.

"All aspects relating to peace and security have been discussed and terrorism is an issue which is an issue confronting both the countries and of course its very relevant to peace and security," Vishnu Prakash, official spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs, said last evening.

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