India-Pakistan talks centre on terrorism but fail to make progress

India-Pakistan talks centre on terrorism but fail to make progress
# 25 February 2010 18:48 (UTC +04:00)
Baku – APA. The first high-level talks between India and Pakistan since a tentative peace process was broken off 15 months ago ended today with no sign of any significant progress, APA reports citing

Though diplomats from both nations expressed a desire to improve their countries’ relationship, four hours of discussion in New Delhi ended without any dates for further contacts being set, or a joint statement.

Pakistan’s foreign secretary, Salman Bashir, went further than previously in accusing India of actions "prejudicial to the security of Pakistan" by supporting "militants and terrorists" in Afghanistan. Bashir told reporters that Islamabad had "photographic evidence" to back up its claims.

India blames the attacks on Pakistan-based Islamist extremist groups and is particularly angry that Hafiz Saeed, a militant leader who New Delhi alleges was their mastermind, is still free.

"I told them about our concerns about terrorism emanating from Pakistan," Nirupama Rao, the Indian foreign secretary, told a press conference. "The Mumbai attacks erased the trust and confidence that the two countries had built up. "Though few expected any breakthrough, western diplomats will be disappointed to see that though Rao characterised the talks as "candid and useful", there was no indication that the two nuclear-armed neighbours will move to resolve any of the key issues dividing them in the near future.

Both Delhi and Islamabad have been under pressure from Washington to restart the peace process which between 2003 and 2008 saw progress on a range of questions including the future of the disputed region of Kashmir, the distribution of water flowing from the Himalayas, and long-standing border disputes.

In Washington many analysts believe that better relations with India might allay Pakistan’s historic fear of a conflict on its eastern border, allowing greater resources to be committed to the fight against local Islamist militants and al-Qaida on its western frontier. The two states have fought three major wars since gaining independence from Britain over 60 years ago.

The Indian government had invited the Pakistani delegation despite considerable domestic opposition, and has stuck rigorously to its line that talks must focus on terrorism before any other issues can be addressed.

Pakistanis had been killed and nearly 13,000 injured in terrorist attacks since 2008.
Rao told reporters after the talks that "a first step toward rebuilding trust" had been taken.