Islamabad: The 2008 Mumbai attack will be the main issue during an expected meeting between the interior ministers of Pakistan and India on Friday which could set the tone for future talks, analysts said.
The meeting between Pakistan’s Rehman Malik and India’s Palaniappan Chidambaram comes a day after top diplomats said they were optimistic relations between the two nuclear rivals, which nosedived after Pakistan-based militants killed 166 people in Mumbai in November 2008, would improve.
Noting progress in meetings on Thursday, analysts said that while Pakistan wants to talk about all issues -- including the dispute over the shared region of Kashmir -- India’s main concern remained militancy.
Given the undoubted emphasis on security, the talks could influence a decision to resume an India-Pakistan dialogue that India broke off after the Mumbai attack, said analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi.
“The input from the meeting will help the Indian foreign minister to make up his mind whether to start the dialogue or to keep on dragging,” said Rizvi.
Foreign ministers are due to meet in Islamabad on 15 July to push forward efforts aimed at normalising ties.
“I think this is a very crucial meeting because India would also be testing out, making their own assessment of what Pakistan’s response is going to be,” said former interior secretary Tasneem Noorani.
“The interior ministers’ meeting will really set the pace for the meeting between their foreign ministers next month,” he said.
New Delhi accuses Islamabad of spreading militancy in Kashmir and other parts of India.
Tackling militant groups such as Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), blamed by India for the Mumbai attack, has been an India precondition for restarting comprehensive talks over water, Kashmir and other disputes.
“Their main stress continues to be on terrorism. When they talk of confidence building, basically they are talking of terrorism,” said Rizvi.
Riffat Hussain, chairman of defence and strategic studies at Quaid-e-Azam University, said “both countries will have a shared perspective on how to deal with terrorism” after the interior ministers meet, their first direct contact.
On Saturday, Chidambaram will also attend the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc), whose eight members represent roughly a fifth of the world’s population.