India, Pakistan to hold talks on summit sidelines
Friday, 01 August 2008

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi (L) and his Indian counterpart Pranab Mukherjee shake hands during a joint news conference in New Delhi in this June 27, 2008 file photo. REUTERS, COLOMBO - The foreign ministers of India and Pakistan will meet on the sidelines of a South Asian summit on Thursday amid an escalation in border skirmishes and bomb attacks on Indian cities that threaten a sluggish peace process.

Foreign ministers of eight South Asian countries are meeting in Colombo to set the stage for an Aug. 2-3 summit of their leaders that will discuss, among other issues, terrorism and food and energy security.

"They will meet sometime in between the SAARC foreign ministers' meeting," A. Manickam, a top Indian diplomat in Colombo, told Reuters.

Manickam gave no details of the agenda of the meeting between the Indian and Pakistani foreign ministers.
But a senior diplomat said Indian foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee is expected to send a strong message to Pakistan to do more to curb anti-India militant groups in Pakistan.

The meeting comes after a series of violations of a five-year-old ceasefire on the de facto border dividing the disputed Kashmir region. There have been three exchanges of border fire this month alone, marking the most serious violation since a 2003 ceasefire.

The South Asian regional summit is also being held under the shadow of a string of bomb blasts in India, and another at its embassy in Kabul this month, which India blamed on Pakistan's spy agency. The attacks together killed more than 100 people.

India said after the Kabul attack that the four-year-old peace process with Pakistan was "under stress" because its nuclear-armed foe was "inciting terror" inside India and trying to hit its interests abroad.

But Pakistan has rejected the charge and said peace talks were "on track", and that India was pointing an accusing finger without any evidence.

The two countries' security issues are likely to yet again cloud the summit agenda of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation or SAARC, which was formed in 1985 to boost the region's economic growth but has remained a talking shop.

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