uesday, 23 Feb, 2010
ISLAMABAD: One day before the India-Pakistan secretary level talks take place, India has forced Pakistan to alter its delegation for the meeting virtually defeating Islamabad’s desire for meaningful and purposeful negotiations on critical issues straining bilateral ties.
Diplomatic sources told Dawn that representatives from the ministries of water and power as well as the interior would no longer be accompanying the delegation led by Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir for the Feb 25 meeting.
However, the numerical strength of the delegation remains the same as the technical officials have been replaced by the Foreign Office diplomats.
The implications of the changes are nevertheless evident. The two sides would no longer be having in depth discussions on pressing issues such as the water dispute.
According to a diplomat, Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, while extending invitation for talks to her counterpart Salman Bashir, had clearly hinted at India’s willingness to discuss all issues including water. But once Pakistan conveyed the composition of its delegation, Delhi back-tracked and refused to accept specialist officials asking Islamabad to restrict its team to officials of the Foreign Ministry.
The delegation that includes the Foreign Secretary and seven other members will depart for Delhi on Wednesday.
The changes in the delegation was the second setback for Islamabad ahead of the talks. Earlier, India had refused to resume composite dialogue, which Pakistan insists was the only way forward.
Foreign Office Spokesman Abdul Basit accepted that the delegation for Delhi had been changed. He, however, denied that the changes had been forced by India.
Pakistan has all along been stressing that it wanted all bilateral issues, including Kashmir and water sharing disputes to be discussed at the Feb 25 talks and felt that the purpose of the renewed engagement would be lost if India restricted the dialogue to terrorism.