Top Pakistani, Indian Diplomats to Meet this Month
Saturday, 12 September 2009

Pakistan and India agreed on Friday that their top diplomats would hold talks before their foreign ministers meet on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York this month, Pakistan said.

The two countries have held three bilateral meetings on the sidelines of international gatherings since June but have yet to resume a formal peace process broken off by India following last November's attack on Mumbai, blamed on Pakistan-based militants.

Analysts are not expecting any breakthrough at the talks, but the confirmation the two foreign secretaries, or top diplomats, would meet before their foreign ministers underscored a tentative thaw in relations embittered by the Mumbai attack.

India's high commissioner, or ambassador, to Pakistan met Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir in Islamabad on Friday, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry said.

Bashir said Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi was looking forward to meeting his Indian counterpart.

"It was also decided that the two foreign secretaries should meet prior to the meeting between the two foreign ministers," the Pakistani ministry said in a statement.

India, however, has insisted that Pakistan take forceful action against militants suspected of involvement in the Mumbai assault, in which 166 people were killed, before a formal peace process launched in 2004 can be resumed.

Pakistan, keen to get the peace talks back on track, has acknowledged the Mumbai assault was partly plotted and launched from its soil and has begun the trial of five suspects.

The next hearing in their case is due on Sept. 19. Pakistani authorities recently arrested two more suspects.

India is also pressing Pakistan to prosecute Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, the founder of the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group that India says was behind the Mumbai attack.

Saeed was detained in Pakistan in December, after a UN Security Council resolution put him on a list of people and organisations supporting al Qaeda.

But in June, a court released him on grounds of insufficient evidence, prompting the Pakistani government to lodge an appeal with the Supreme Court for his re-arrest. That case is pending.

India says Saeed was the mastermind of the Mumbai attacks.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh met the president and prime minister of Pakistan on the sidelines of international conferences in Russia and Egypt in June and July and the foreign ministers also met once.

Singh came under attack at home after his last meeting from critics who feared he might be moving too fast to improve relations with Pakistan. The two countries have fought three wars since independence in 1947.


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