India-Pakistan tensions flare at Afghanistan talks

India-Pakistan tensions flare at Afghanistan talks

Paris: Tensions between India and Pakistan over last month’s terrorist attacks on Mumbai overshadowed a conference aimed at fostering cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbours.

Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Indian junior foreign minister Anand Sharma sat side-by-side at a news conference on Sunday following the informal, closed-door talks, but they traded barely concealed barbs.

Sharma insisted India has acted “with remarkable restraint and maturity" in responding to the attacks, which began 26 November, and suggested it was up to Pakistan to act to dismantle terrorist networks operating on its soil.

“We all know where these terror outfits are and where the perpetrators are," said Sharma. “The only way forward is to ensure that democracies flourish and the perpetrators of the dastardly attacks are brought to justice quickly."

Qureshi said Pakistan is eager to cooperate with its neighbours in the fight against terror and warned against assigning blame.

“We’ve offered cooperation and we mean well," he said. “It is so easy to get sucked into a blame game, so easy to point fingers, but we don’t want to do that, because that would be counterproductive."

He added, “The question under consideration is: How do we join hands to overcome this menace, how can we cooperate to put an end to this menace?"

Asked whether he and Sharma had interacted during the conference, which was held in Paris suburb La Celle Saint Cloud, Qureshi said “Obviously, if you spend the day together you are bound to speak to each other.... It was in a very cordial atmosphere, a very friendly tone."

The historical rivals were among several Asian states taking place in the talks, which also brought together top Russian, US and European officials, including EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner.