India, Pakistan to 'Remain in Touch' After Talks Stall
Steve Herman | New Delhi 25 February 2010
India and Pakistan held their first official talks in nearly 15 months, but they failed to produce any breakthroughs or even a firm commitment on when to meet again. The two nuclear-armed rivals merely agreed to "remain in touch."
India has rebuffed Pakistan's request to quickly re-start stalled peace talks. After a three-hour meeting at Hyderabad House, a former princely palace, Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao told reporters it is premature to restart the so-called composite dialogue, intended to resolve all outstanding bilateral issues.
"We do not discount the achievements and relevance of that dialogue, but the time is not ripe, as yet, to resume it because we have to create a climate of trust and confidence. And, you know, there has to be a certain process that we have to put in place, step by step, before we do that," said Rao.
The long-time rivals held six rounds of comprehensive talks beginning in 2004, but no such discussions have been held since the November 2008 terror attacks on Mumbai. The attacks on India's commercial capital are blamed on the Pakistan-based Laskhar-e-Taiba militant group.
India feels Pakistan has not done enough to bring to justice those responsible for the days-long siege that left more than 160 people dead.
Expectations were low for this discussion between the foreign secretaries, but there was hope personalities might override politics and nationalism. India's foreign secretary and her Pakistani counterpart, Salman Bashir, are regarded as being on cordial terms from when they simultaneously served in Beijing as ambassadors. The veteran diplomats are not considered hard liners.
Bashir, speaking at the Pakistani High Commission in New Delhi after his meeting with Rao, told reporters Islamabad has done everything proper and possible to bring to justice those responsible for the Mumbai attacks and it is time for diplomacy to resume beyond a single issue.
"It is unfair and it is unrealistic and it is, in our view, counter-productive to make this issue in a generic way or one incident to keep that the focus on that and to stall the process of the overall relationship between the two countries," he said.
He adds that the "very useful exchange" in New Delhi should "not be described as success or failure."
India says it handed the visiting Pakistanis three dossiers concerning wanted terror suspects and fugitives. Pakistan says it will consider seriously the information in the documents.
India says Kashmir was briefly mentioned, while Pakistan says it was extensively discussed. Both sides brought up infiltrations and cease-fire violations across the line of control in Kashmir.
Pakistan again raised its claim of Indian meddling in Balochistan. But there was no mention of Afghanistan, according to Indian officials.
The United States wants a stable relationship between Islamabad and New Delhi so Pakistan can worry less about its eastern border and better assist NATO forces fighting the Taliban along its western border.
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