Pakistani delegation hopeful of ‘positive outcome’ of talks

New Delhi, Feb 24 (IANS) On the eve of talks with his Indian counterpart Nirupama Rao, Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir Wednesday said here he was hopeful of a ‘positive outcome’ and of ‘bridging the difference’ with India on contentious issues.

‘It is good to be back. I have come here to bridge the differences. I am hopeful of a positive outcome,’ Bashir, who is heading a five-member delegation, said after his arrival at the Delhi international airport.

Ahead of the talks, the first such formal engagement between India and Pakistan since 26/11 Mumbai attacks, the two sides will focus their efforts on overcoming the trust deficit to create an atmosphere conducive for re-engagement between the two countries.

New Delhi is cautiously optimistic and has stressed that it is going into ‘talks with an open mind’ with a view to clearing the air over issues of concern to it, like terrorism emanating from across the border.

‘We are going into talks with an open mind, but are fully conscious of the limitations imposed by the trust deficit, post Mumbai,’ said a government source.

‘However, we are not prejudging the outcome,’ the source added.

During Thursday’s talks, the Pakistani delegation headed by Bashir will comprise Afrasiab, director-general of the South Asia division, Pakistan’s High Commissioner Shahid Malik, Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesperson Abdul Basit and other senior officials.

The Indian team, to be headed by Rao, will include Y.K. Sinha, joint secretary in charge of Pakistan desk, India’s High Commissioner to Islamabad Sharat Sabharwal, and Vishnu Prakash, spokesperson of the external affairs ministry.

The delegation-level talks are expected to last for at least two hours Thursday.

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