Tue, Nov 28, 2006 - Page 5 News List

New Delhi's foreign minister to visit Pakistan on Jan. 13

AGENCIES , NEW DELHI AND HUBANESWAR, INDIA

India's foreign minister will visit Pakistan on Jan. 13 in a bid to invigorate their peace process and to invite Pakistani leaders for a South Asia regional summit next year, officials said yesterday.

"We will have substantive talks at that point of time," Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee told reporters after meeting his Pakistani counterpart Khur-sheed Mehmood Kasuri in the Indian capital.

"This was just an informal meeting," Mukherjee said.

The meeting between the foreign ministers, the first in more than a year, came two weeks after their foreign secretaries resumed peace talks and set up a joint panel to fight terrorism and curb tensions.

It was also the first time the two men have met since Mukherjee, a veteran politician, moved from the defense ministry to foreign affairs last month.

Kasuri, who was in the Indian capital to attend the wedding of the daughter of another Indian minister, said the two sides need to build trust further.

The India-Pakistan peace process has made slow progress since it was launched in 2004.

New Delhi suspended the dialogue after bomb attacks on trains in Mumbai in July, which it blamed on a Pakistan-based militant group.

But it agreed to resume talks after leaders of the two countries met on the sidelines of a Non-Aligned Movement summit in Havana in September.

Ahead of his talks, Kasuri said the counter-terrorism panel -- whose task is to share information and pursue leads connected to attacks -- would only succeed if the two countries did not use it as a propaganda tool.

"If it is used propagandistically, blaming each other, it will fail," the Press Trust of India news agency quoted Kasuri as saying late on Sunday. "It should discuss specific cases and evidence. Both countries should cooperate with each other."

"When Pakistan cooperated with Britain and prevented airliner accidents, it did not happen through newspapers, it happened through cooperation," he said.

Kasuri was referring to a plot by terrorists uncovered in August to detonate liquid explosives on planes flying from Britain to the US. The plot was foiled in Britain with more than a dozen arrests in the UK, thanks to intelligence tip-offs from Pakistan.

In other developments, India said yesterday that its first test of a missile designed to intercept other missiles was a success, amid its ongoing efforts to develop a home-grown ballistic interception system.

A surface-to-surface Prithvi-II missile was shot down over the Bay of Bengal by a similar missile fired seconds later.

The weapons were fired from the country's Chandipur-on-Sea and Wheeler Islands testing sites respectively, about 45 nautical miles (83km) apart, an officer with the Defense Research and Development Organization, which conducted the test, said on condition of anonymity.

The Prithvi-II missile, which is capable of carrying conventional or nuclear warheads, was last tested on Nov. 19. It has a range of up to 250km.

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