Fri, Jun 24, 2011 - Page 5 News List

India, Pakistan hold talks on peace and security issues


India and Pakistan were scheduled to hold talks on peace and security issues yesterday, part of efforts to stabilize South Asia as the US prepares to draw down troops from Afghanistan.

Concerns over terrorism are likely to dominate India’s agenda, just weeks after US troops killed Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani military town on May 2.

A four-year peace process between the nuclear-armed rivals collapsed after Islamist gunmen killed 166 people in Mumbai in November 2008.

India blamed the attack on Pakistani militants from the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba group and Islamabad acknowledged that the plot was hatched at least partly on its soil.

Following a hiatus of more than two years, the two countries announced talks would resume after a meeting between Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir and his Indian counterpart, Nirupama Rao, in Bhutan in February.

The two civil servants, the highest-ranking career diplomats in their respective ministries, will now come together for two days of discussions in Islamabad, before Pakistan’s foreign minister is scheduled to visit India next month.

No breakthroughs are expected, but the contacts are considered part of efforts to stabilize the region after US President Barack Obama announced the start of US troop withdrawals from Afghanistan.

The international community has been pushing the two sides to get back to the negotiating table to help ease tensions in an already volatile region.

“We have to be patient, realistic and positive,” Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna said this week, calling for terrorism to be dealt with “firmly and transparently.”

Rao was scheduled to arrive late yesterday morning and the talks would get underway at about 3:30pm, a Pakistani foreign ministry official said.

New Delhi has long accused its neighbor of harboring militant groups, but analysts say it is becoming increasingly concerned that growing unrest in Pakistan could compromise the safety of the country’s growing nuclear arsenal.

Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tehmina Janjua said the talks would discuss “peace and security, including confidence building measures, Jammu and Kashmir, and the promotion of friendly exchanges.”

After the Mumbai carnage, Delhi and Islamabad began to explore a resumption of structured talks last year, and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani met in Thimphu in April last year.

Talks on the disputed Himalayan glacier of Siachen, where troops have clashed intermittently since 1984, concluded a month ago without progress.

“There will be no major breakthrough in the talks, but I am sure that the process will now go on to enable the two countries to discuss and sort out issues,” Pakistani foreign policy analyst A.H. Nayyar said. “As for the issue of terrorism, it will be justified on India’s part if their officials raise this issue because this problem has been gaining roots, but we have not been able to tackle it.”

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