Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt: Pakistan’s Prime Minister said on Tuesday he hoped a meeting in Egypt with his Indian counterpart would get peace talks back on track after last year’s Mumbai attacks.
India’s foreign minister described Thursday’s planned meeting, on the sidelines of a Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Egypt’s resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, as “crucial”.
Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani said the two countries, which have fought three wars since independence in 1947, had been “moving in the right direction” until last November’s militant attacks on Mumbai that killed 175 people.
He said the attacks, and the freeze that India then put on the talks, had only benefited the militants.
“When there will be more interaction, I think that will pave the way for the composite dialogue and for more interaction with the Indian government,” he said as he set off for Egypt.
“I am sure that such interactions would be really beneficial for the country,” Gilani said.
Speaking in Sharm el-Sheikh, Indian foreign minister S.M. Krishna declined to elaborate on what Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would discuss with Gilani.
“Let us wait for the outcome of that crucial meeting,” Krishna told reporters. Top diplomats from the two countries were due to meet later on Tuesday or Wednesday.
India said the Mumbai assault was carried out by Pakistani militants who must have had help from Pakistani security agents. Pakistan has denied any involvement by state agencies and says it will prosecute militants suspected of involvement.
The meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh will be the third high-level bilateral talks since the bloodshed in Mumbai. Singh met Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari in Russia last month, and the foreign ministers met recently in Italy.
Pakistan is keen to revive the five-year-old “composite dialogue” covering all disputes between the two countries. But Singh has insisted it must first show it is serious about taking action against militant groups that launch attacks in the Indian part of the disputed Kashmir region and elsewhere in India.
Pakistani interior minister Rehman Malik said at the weekend Pakistan had completed its investigation into five suspects accused of links to the Mumbai attack, and they were expected to be put on trial this week.
Pakistan also handed a fresh dossier on its probe into the attack to India on Saturday. The suspects include Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, a commander of the banned Laskhar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant group, who is accused of masterminding the attack.
Singh, who has said he was willing to meet Pakistan “more than half way” if it cracked down on militants, may be prompted to make a conciliatory gesture ahead of a visit to India by US secretary of state Hillary Clinton.
The United States is keenly interested in resumption of talks between the two countries to ease tensions on Pakistan’s eastern border with India, so it can focus on fighting Taliban militants on its western border with Afghanistan.