India, Pakistan begin talks; peace tops agenda

Islamabad, May 20:

India and Pakistan opened talks here this morning to take their peace process forward in the first major bilateral engagement since a civilian government took power here in March.

Foreign Secretaries Shivshankar Menon of India and Salman Bashir of Pakistan led the discussions at the Pakistan foreign office. The Indian delegation also includes India’s High Commissioner to Pakistan Satyabrata Pal, and joint secretaries TCA Raghavan, who heads the Pakistan desk, and Navtej Sarna.

The Pakistani delegation includes its envoy to India Shahid Malik, Muhammad Sadiq, spokesperson of the Pakistan foreign ministry, and Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, director-general of South Asia in the ministry.

The officials are expected to discuss peace and security and Jammu and Kashmir — among the eight issues the two sides have been discussing since the peace process started in January 2004. The fourth round of composite dialogue ended late last year but the review at the level of foreign secretary and foreign ministers could not take place due to unrest in Pakistan.

The dialogue also covers economic cooperation, cultural cooperation, terrorism and drug-trafficking and discussions over the disputed Sir Creek marshlands and the Siachen glacier.