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Ahead of talks, India and Pakistan in diplomatic row

Saturday June 18, 2011 08:59:27 PM, IANS

New Delhi/Islamabad: India and Pakistan were locked in a diplomatic row Saturday, ahead of talks between their foreign secretaries in Islamabad next week.

After Pakistan alleged that an Indian warship obstructed a Pakistani naval ship escorting an Egyptian merchant vessel freed by Somali pirates, New Delhi dismissed the complaint as "totally baseless".

The Indian external affairs ministry said the two countries had been coordinating with their overseas interlocutors ahead of the release of MV Suez and its sailors, including Indians and Pakistanis.

"Insinuations to the contrary by a few voices stem from lack of appreciation of facts and are totally baseless," spokesman Vishnu Prakash said.

Pakistan's foreign office Friday lodged a formal protest and said that its frigate PNS Babar was brushed past by INS Godavari.

Pakistan said that INS Godavari "hampered humanitarian operations" carried out by PNS Babar June 16 while escorting the MV Suez in the Gulf of Aden.

The Indian ship was also accused of undertaking "dangerous manoeuvres".

"This incident constitutes a serious violation of international regulations pertaining to safe conduct at high seas and of the India-Pakistan agreement of 1991 on advance notice of military exercise manoeuvres and troop movement," a Pakistani spokesperson said.

MV Suez, seized in August 2010, was released June 13. Its crew included six Indians, 11 Egyptians, four Pakistanis and one Sri Lankan.

Pakistan lodged a protest with the Indian High Commission in Islamabad.

The row came ahead of a meeting of Indian and Pakistani foreign secretaries in Islamabad June 23-24, which could set the stage for talks between their foreign ministers later this year.

According to Pakistani daily Jang, Interior Minister Rehman Malik and Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir and Interior Secretary Chaudhary Qamar-uz-Zaman met to discuss the agenda for next week's meeting.

Pakistan's High Commissioner in India, Shahid Malik, has arrived from New Delhi for the talks. He met Malik Friday.

According to the report, the Indian side is likely to inquire about progress in the trial of 26/11 Mumbai attack masterminds.

India may also raise Pakistani American David Coleman Headley's revelations about the role of the Pakistani spy agency ISI in the Mumbai outrage.

Pakistan wants to include the Kashmir dispute on the agenda.

Earlier this year, India and Pakistan agreed to resume their comprehensive dialogue on all outstanding issues "in a constructive and forward-looking manner".

According to India, the agenda would include "peace and security", including confidence-building measures, Jammu and Kashmir and promotion of friendly exchanges.







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