India offers official talks with Pakistan: TV

India offers official talks with Pakistan: TV

New Delhi: India has offered to hold official-level talks with Pakistan, two Indian television stations said on Thursday, resuming a bilateral dialogue suspended after the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

New Delhi blames the attacks, which killed 166 people, on Pakistan-based terrorists and wants Islamabad to act against them.

The TV stations, quoting unnamed official sources, said the talks would be held at foreign-secretary level. They did not say when the meetings might to be held.

Pakistan welcomed the offer.

“There are now signals emanating from India that they are willing to talk bilaterally," Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told Reuters. “We welcome this ... if it leads to resumption of the composite dialogue."

Washington sees better India-Pakistan relations as crucial so that Islamabad, not having to worry about its eastern border, can focus on fighting the Taliban on its western border with Afghanistan.

Pakistan has been pushing for the resumption of five-year-long peace talks on a range of issues, including the Kashmir issue, broken off by India after the attacks.

The NDTV station quoted government sources saying that India would go into the talks with “an open mind" and discuss “all issues on the table without judging the outcome of the discussions".

The offer to resume talks comes ahead of a visit to Pakistan by Union home minister Palaniappan Chidambaram for a regional meeting this month.

Chidambaram’s 26 February-27 February trip is the first high-level visit since the attacks.

Indian foreign ministry officials said Chidambaram would meet his Pakistani counterpart, Rehman Malik, and other officials for talks that may have a narrow focus on what action Islamabad has taken in regard to the Mumbai attacks.

“Any dialogue now will focus on what progress Pakistan has made in dismantling the terrorist network on its soil that was used to attack Mumbai," a senior government official said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

“It could be a beginning that could help move things forward."

US pressure apart, India’s greater willingness for dialogue with Pakistan now could be aimed at boosting the credibility of the civilian government in Islamabad in the face of military hawks in the army and its military intelligence, Indian analysts say.

New Delhi may finally be realising the limitations of its strategy of “coercive diplomacy" as global sympathy for the Mumbai attacks wane and New Delhi begins to be seen as increasingly intransigent, they say.

“India held back the tide of dialogue in the hope that Pakistan would permanently dismantle the infrastructure of terror on its territory and a more fertile ground for bilateral progress results," Siddharth Varadarajan, strategic affairs editor, wrote in the Hindu newspaper this week.

“The strategy might have worked up to a point but diminishing returns set in a long time ago."