Mon, May 19, 2008 - Page 4 News List

Indian foreign minister to restart Pakistan talks


India’s foreign minister travels to Pakistan this week for his first meeting with leaders of a new civilian government and to review a peace process that has been in the doldrums for more than a year.

Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee will meet his Pakistani counterpart, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, on Wednesday, a day after their top civil servants hold talks.

The nuclear-armed rivals launched peace efforts in 2004 after nearly going to war a fourth time after Islamist militant attacks in India linked to a nearly 20-year revolt against Indian rule in the Kashmir region.

While ties have warmed, the two sides have made no significant progress on their main dispute over the divided, Muslim-majority Himalayan region they both claim.

A heavy clash on their Kashmir border this month underscored just how tenuous the improvement in relations is.

Analysts in both Pakistan and India said Mukherjee will be sounding out Pakistan’s new leaders and trying to determine who is devising policy.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has been the architect of Indian policy since he seized power in a 1999 military coup but February elections brought in a civilian government led by the party of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

“The Indians will want to know who is in charge in Islamabad because it’s not clear,” said Riaz Khokhar, a former Pakistani foreign secretary.“There are so many centers of power now and where does the president stand? Is he a main player in Pakistan-India relations or is he history?” Khokhar said.

Musharraf made a range of groundbreaking proposals to end the Kashmir deadlock that has bedeviled ties since 1947. But some Pakistani critics say Musharraf made too many concessions.

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