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India-Pakistan Talks to Focus on Terrorism

Anjana Pasricha | New Delhi

India says talks this week with South Asian rival, Pakistan, will likely focus on concerns regarding terrorism. The foreign ministers of the two countries are scheduled to hold their first formal peace dialogue since the 2008 terror strikes in Mumbai.

In a statement released Monday, Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna said terrorism has to be dealt with firmly and transparently for the common good of India and Pakistan. The foreign minister also emphasized the need to bridge what he called a “trust deficit” between the two countries.

For India this “trust deficit” remains closely linked to the terror attacks that devastated India’s financial hub, Mumbai, in 2008 and that were blamed on Pakistan-based Islamic militants.

Krishna called on Pakistan to hasten the trial of seven men held by Islamabad for their alleged role in the Mumbai terror strikes. He called the slow pace of the trial a “sad commentary of what is happening there.”

“One needs a lot of patience dealing with a situation like this," Krishna said. "I hope Pakistan realizes how serious the Indian view of this particular question is. Our trial has concluded and an appeal is pending in court, whereas virtually their trial has not even started. I think examination of witnesses has not begun.”

One gunman involved in the attack was arrested in Mumbai and has been handed a death sentence by an Indian court.

India put the peace dialogue on hold after the attacks, but agreed to resume it earlier this year. The foreign secretaries of the two countries will meet in Islamabad on Thursday and Friday.

The talks will cover issues such as peace and security and Kashmir - the territory divided between them, but claimed by both.

But differences have emerged over the focus of the dialogue. Officials in Islamabad have suggested that India should move beyond the Mumbai attacks and focus on issues such as Kashmir. Indian officials say they will bring up the Mumbai issue.

Minister Krishna cautioned against expecting quick results from the latest efforts to normalize relations.

“We will have to be very realistic, we will have to be very positive in our approach,” he said.

Recent tension between the countries show how hard that may be. Last week, the two exchanged diplomatic objections after a close encounter between two warships during an operation to rescue a ship from Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean.

Minister Krishna admits such incidents can hinder efforts to build trust.

“On the one hand we are trying to improve the relationship between India and Pakistan. On the other hand if such solitary incidents which take place which becomes a cause of irritant which certainly does not help,” Krishna noted.

The talks between the foreign secretaries in Islamabad are expected to prepare for a resumption of political dialogue between the the rival nations. The higher-ranking foreign ministers are expected to meet next month.

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