Egged on by some good, well-meaning career diplomats on both sides, it would be difficult to find a fault with the effort. But at the end of the day despite all the show of bonhomie, joint statements and joint press conferences, there was not much to show but a jaded, tired - though necessary - resolve that despite all the differences and complexities of India-Pakistan ties, the dialogue process will continue. The two ministers agreed to discuss all outstanding issues in a spirit of cooperation, congeniality and friendship agreeing that terror posed a threat to both Delhi and Islamabad and needs to be tackled jointly. The two sides also agreed to share more information on counter-terrorism matters. Both sides also discussed Kashmir and decided to carry forward the discussions on the complex issue in a comprehensive manner. There was an agreement to increase cross border trade across LoC and allow movement of trucks and goods between the two sides four days a week from Monday to Thursday. Currently cross border movement of trucks across LoC is allowed only two days a week. Easier access to people from both countries, a more humane approach to prisoners on both sides and a resolve to remain engaged on all outstanding issues-from Siachen to Sir Creek-are some of the points which find a mention in the joint statement. The highlight of the ministerial engagement was actually the joint press conference addressed by the foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan on Wednesday afternoon nearly two hours after the two foreign ministers had concluded their discussions. Both Salman Bashir and Nirupama Rao took pains to emphasise that neither the arrest of the ISI funded Ghulam Nabi Fai in Washington last week nor the meeting of the Pakistani foreign minister with separatist Hurriyat leadership in Delhi Tuesday evening cast any shadow on the ministerial bilateral. This was not entirely true as the Indian side registered its strong protest on the issue of the Pakistan Foreign Minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, meeting with Hurriyat leaders ahead of her meeting with the Indian foreign minister. To be fair, both the foreign secretaries walked the proverbial extra mile in their joint press conference to reiterate the difficulties and complexities which mark the India-Pakistan relationship and said their effort was to make progress on peace despite all the obvious and fairly well known roadblocks. Theres no doubting their sincere intention. But one can be reasonably sure that with their experience both the Indian and Pakistani foreign secretaries realise very well that there is a limit to playing what can be best described as a holding game. Both sides know there can be little movement forward without some bold and imaginative initiative from the political leadership in Delhi and Islamabad. Before one moves on to the issue of political will in Delhi and Islamabad, lets first consider the backdrop of this meeting. The India-Pakistan bilateral engagement got a fresh lease of life at Thimphu last year when the prime ministers of India and Pakistan met on the sidelines of the SAARC meeting and decided to restart the peace process abandoned in the bloody aftermath of 26/11. But the dialogue process hardly got off to an auspicious start and the memories of the disastrous meeting between Indian foreign minister, S.M.Krishna, and his Pakistan counterpart, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, in Islamabad are still fresh in the subcontinents collective diplomatic memory. To keep the peace process with India on track, Pakistan quite literally offered its best face forward for this round of bilateral engagement in their new, young and beautiful foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar. India also rolled out the red carpet and for the last two days even those sections of the India media which do not normally care much for foreign policy issues devoted considerable space to do stories profiling the life and times of Ms Khar. All the effort and the preparation seemed to be yielding some dividend as the two foreign ministers posed for the cameras before starting their meeting Wednesday morning. The firmness in a lingering handshake, exchange of broad smiles, the affable, friendly tone while mouthing the politically correct platitudes, coupled with a relaxed body language aimed at conveying just the correct shade of bonhomie. It all seemed too pat when at the end of it all an elaborately worded 21-point joint statement was also released. But the absence of any bold, imaginative, big ticket idea in the joint statement brings us back to the basics. India and Pakistan can continue to talk for the sake of talking but if a hard nosed look is taken at where the talks are headed the answer is: Nowhere. At the same time one has to carry on with the charade of talks even as most relevant people on both sides realise its limitations. So once again theres no single big takeaway from another round of India-Pakistan engagement. The two countries continue to talk largely for the sake of form and to remain engaged with each other. First Post