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India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (right) and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani before their meeting on the sidelines of the 16th summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) in Thimphu on Thursday. Image Credit: Reuters

New Delhi: India and Pakistan on Thursday agreed to work towards resuming their frozen peace dialogue when they met in Bhutan for direct talks at prime ministerial level — the first time in nine months.

During the discussions, which both sides described as positive, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart, Yousuf Raza Gilani, mandated their foreign ministers to draw up a road map for future talks.

"Foreign ministers and foreign secretaries of the two countries have been entrusted with the task of working out the modalities of the dialogue," said Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, adding that the Bhutan meeting emphasised the need to restore trust between the two countries that can pave the way for substantive dialogue.

90 minutes

Singh and Gilani met for 90 minutes on the sidelines of the eight-nation South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) summit in Bhutan's capital, Thimphu.

"The outcome of the meeting has changed the climate between India and Pakistan," Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmoud Quraishi said.

India-Pakistan talks had come to a halt following the 26/11 terror attack on Mumbai in 2008.

The countries held their first bilateral dialogue on February 25 this year when their foreign secretaries met in New Delhi.

The Singh-Gilani talks took place at Bhutan House in the Saarc Village.

Handshake

After shaking hands in public, the two leaders went inside for one-on-one talks. Later, they were joined by their foreign ministers, S.M. Krishna and Quraishi.

"The Prime Minister emphasised various issues that cause concern to India — issues relating to terrorism, rise of infiltration, and the slow progress in trials of the 26/11 perpetrators.

"India is willing to discuss all issues of concern with Pakistan but the issue of terrorism is holding back progress," Rao said.

Gilani on his part assured Singh that Pakistan is serious about prosecuting perpetrators of the 26/11 attacks and an effort is being made to bring the trial to a speedy conclusion.

The Pakistani premier also told Singh that his country would not allow its territory to be used for terrorist activities directed against India.