The foreign ministers of India and Pakistan will meet in Islamabad on Thursday. The talks are aimed at building mutual trust and resuming peace talks.
India's PM Singh, right, shakes hands with Pakistan's PM Gilani during their meeting in Egypt
Following the meeting between the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan in Bhutan in April, the foreign ministers of the two sides were charged with creating trust between the two governments. This is why India's Foreign Affairs Minister SM Krishna will be travelling to Pakistan on Thursday on a three day visit. It is a move that has been widely welcomed.
"This is good that the process is now starting and the two foreign ministers are meeting. Before that the foreign secretaries' meeting and the meeting of the home ministers went well in Islamabad, and I hope in this meeting they will be able to take some measures to build some confidence," says Imtiaz Alam, a senior Pakistani journalist and the president of the South Asia Free Media Association in Lahore.
Indian Foreign Minister SM Krishna
After conducting nuclear tests in 1998, both sides launched confidence building measures. In 2004, the two sides started a composite peace dialogue, which covered eight issues, including Kashmir, terrorism, trade and people-to-people contact. But following the attacks on Mumbai that were blamed on Pakistan-based militants, India suspended the peace process.
With the changed scenario in the past two years, some believe the two sides may put the old composite dialogue on the backburner and develop a new mechanism to negotiate with each other, whereas others think building on the composite dialogue is the only way forward.
"The old dialogue is comprehensive," says D Suba Chandran, an expert on India-Pakistan relations in New Delhi. "What was agreed in 1998 provides a very good basic structure to speak on all issues from nuclear to trade."
The Taj Hotel of Mumbai was one of the many locations attacked by terrorists in 2008
India' s toned down position
After the Mumbai attacks, India had insisted on resuming the dialogue only on condition that Pakistan brings the chief of the outlawed militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hafiz Saeed to justice. India says he is the mastermind of the Mumbai attacks. Pakistan has insisted that it has no evidence against Saeed and maintains that it has charged seven other people in connection with the atrocity in India's financial capital.
Though Indian Foreign Minister S M Krishna has maintained that the issue of terrorism is going to be high on India's agenda during the upcoming talks, there is a feeling of late that India has actually toned down its position and is interested in continuing dialogue with Pakistan.
"Pakistan is never likely to hand over those people. It is a political issue," explains Suba Chandran. "India has made its point and there is a widespread international support for India's position and nothing much can be done outside this. I think now it is a liability in terms of sticking to same point. India has to talk to its neighbor."
Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi
The meeting also comes at a time when tension is simmering in Indian-administered Kashmir after the recent anti-government protests and unrest that has left 15 civilians dead. New Delhi has blamed Lashkar-e-Taiba for instigating the violence.
Pakistan has expressed concerns over the situation in Kashmir and Foreign Minister Qureshi has said that he will raise the issue during the meeting with his Indian counterpart. But many doubt if there will any breakthrough on the dispute itself. "That has been on the agenda for the last 60 years. It will remain so. So it would be very premature to expect this meeting to focus on the Kashmir issue. It is a long-term issue and will not be resolved in the short term," says Imtiaz Alam.
Indian-administered Kashmir has recently been tense
Possible agreements on smaller issues
The talks may however produce statements on issues such as boosting cross-border train and bus services and trade also in the Kashmir region, says Suba Chandran.
"As of now the trade is taking place on a barter system and there is no exchange of currency. And we hope there will be some announcement in terms of goods that are being traded. As of now there are 21 items. The local traders are looking for around 50-60 items to trade. And also the traders want to visit each other. They are looking for a kind of visa that will enable them to travel at least for a year without any restrictions."
Both India and Pakistan claim Kashmir as a whole. They have fought several wars over the region in the past five decades.
Author: Disha Uppal
Editor: Grahame Lucas