New Delhi: India urged stronger action against militants threatening it from Pakistani soil during the first talks with its neighbour since the 2008 Mumbai attack, as Pakistan urged a quick return to wide-ranging dialogue.
India’s foreign secretary Nirupama Rao said the two sides had agreed to stay in touch, after taking a step towards rebuilding trust. She gave no date for a follow-up meeting. “The time is not right for a resumption of the wide-ranging talks that Pakistan wants,” Rao said.
Rao and her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir, who overlapped as their countries’ ambassadors in Beijing for two years, went into the talks far apart on an agenda India wanted to focus on security and Pakistan sought to be broadened to include disputed Kashmir and water rights. That divide remained after three hours of talks.
A relationship bedevilled by 60 years of mistrust and three wars is a matter of concern to the US as it seeks to prevail in a war with Afghan Taliban fighters in which 994 American troops have died.
What next? Indian foreign secretary Nirupama Rao shakes hand with her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir in New Delhi on Thursday. Manish Swarup/AP
Pakistan’s investigation of those behind the November 2008 attack on Mumbai didn’t go far enough, Rao said, adding the attack had erased the trust and confidence the two countries had painstakingly built from 2004 to 2007. It was unfair, unrealistic and counterproductive, to stall overall talks over the issue of terrorism, Bashir said while expressing his sympathy for Mumbai’s victims.
Negotiations might help reignite growth in annual bilateral trade that had almost quadrupled to $2.24 billion four years after talks on Kashmir, economic and commercial cooperation, terrorism and drug trafficking began in 2003.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh scrapped five years of peace talks after the Mumbai attack. Singh demanded Pakistan close down militant groups plotting against India, including the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) organization it blamed for the three-day assault on the city.
Pakistan-based militant groups such as LeT remain unhindered to perpetrate violence against India, Rao said. Militant rallies on 5 February in Pakistan cities openly incited terrorist violence against India, she said.
Following the Mumbai attack, Pakistan has begun a secret trial of members of LeT. Bashir said Pakistan will do all it can to make sure the guilty are punished, Rao told reporters. Bashir said both countries were victims of terrorism. “We have suffered many, many Mumbais,” he said, alluding to suicide bombings by the Pakistani Taliban.
Thursday’s talks come almost two weeks after the bombing of a bakery popular with foreigners in Pune triggered opposition calls to halt talks with Pakistan. India on Thursday asked Pakistan to investigate claims from an unknown organization that it carried out that attack.