Islamabad: Pakistan said on Saturday it would resume formal peace talks with India soon but issues such as militancy and the disputed Kashmir region are likely to slow any progress towards defusing tensions. “As you know, we’ve agreed to resume the full spectrum dialogue between Pakistan and India. And the process will start to unfold shortly, that is from March to late June, with carefully-sequenced meetings on all issues of interests and concern,” Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir told reporters at a news conference in Islamabad.
“But what is also important, that these sequenced meetings that will take place on the items that you are very familiar with will lead to a review, first at the foreign secretaries’ level, but then at the ministerial level. And we’ve agreed that by July the process would have completed,” he said. The talks would be the first since New Delhi broke off peace negotiations after militant attacks on Mumbai in 2008.
Previous formal talks, which started in 2004, quickly floundered amid a minefield of political obstacles and distrust between the two countries, which have fought three wars since their independence 60 years ago.
“Of course we are dealing here with difficult and complex issues, but what is important is to show that we have the ability to take ownership as important, responsible states for the affairs that are our affairs, whether they are bilateral or regional affairs, in terms especially relating to stability, peace and development,” Bashir said.
“This requires a lot of patience, this requires a lot of determination and above all this requires the requisite political will to embark on such an undertaking,” he said.
A senior Indian government official said on Thursday (February 10) the decision to return to talks was made at a meeting between the two countries’ top diplomats in Bhutan’s capital, Thimphu, on the sidelines of a regional conference. The two governments will hold a series of talks on counter-terrorism and Kashmir ahead of a visit to India by Pakistan’s foreign minister by July, the countries’ foreign ministries said.
New Delhi suspended the peace process between the two sides after the commando-style militant attacks in India’s commercial capital Mumbai, blaming Pakistan-based militants for the deaths of 166 people.
Since then officials from the two nations have met to improve ties but have shied away from resuming the so-called composite dialogue that included resolving key differences, including a dispute over the Himalayan territory of Kashmir. India has consistently demanded that Pakistan act against militant groups on its soil.
Islamabad, which is fighting an Islamist insurgency of its own, says it is doing all it can and demands New Delhi provide evidence to back its accusations. Along with Kashmir, the foes have engaged in a proxy battle for influence in Afghanistan, complicating Western efforts to end the 10-year war there. Pakistan considers Afghanistan a part of its sphere of influence and claims a role in any effort to seek a settlement with the Taliban. India, which supported the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance during the civil war, fears a return of the Taliban would embolden militant groups acting against it.-Reuters