July 18 (Bloomberg) -- Pakistan said talks with India on their peace process will take place at foreign minister level at the end of this month and won’t be delayed after bombings last week in the Indian city of Mumbai.
Plans for the meeting indicate the July 13 attack hasn’t derailed engagement between the nuclear-armed neighbors, which agreed in February to resume a five-year peace process that stalled after a 2008 raid by Pakistani guerrillas in Mumbai, the financial capital.
India, which blamed Pakistan for attacks that killed almost 400 people since 2003, refrained from suggesting a Pakistani link to last week’s bombings that killed at least 19 people. India and Pakistan have fought three wars since they separated at independence from Britain in 1947.
“The Pakistan-India ministerial level talks will be held at New Delhi,” the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan cited Tehmina Janjua, a Foreign Office spokeswoman, as saying in the capital, Islamabad, July 16. “Dates are being worked out.”
The people of Pakistan “who have suffered terrorism, understand and share the anguish in India caused by the tragic loss of life and property,” Janjua said. Pakistan and India recognize that issues of terrorism should be discussed under a bilateral mechanism, she said.
Pakistan has categorically condemned the Mumbai attacks and emphasizes the need for increasing cooperation in countering terrorism, Janjua added.
“We are not starting the investigation on the basis of any predetermined assumptions,” Indian Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram told a press conference on July 14 when asked whether foreigners might have conducted the bombings in Mumbai. Noting that the Indian and Pakistani foreign ministers are scheduled to meet, he made an “appeal not to indulge in speculation.”
India’s main opposition party renewed its criticism of Pakistan as a sponsor of terrorism against India and of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s decision to reopen peace talks.
Dialogue is futile as long as Pakistan fails to eliminate Islamic militant groups that attack India from its soil, said Lal Krishna Advani, the leader in parliament of the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Relations between India and Pakistan have “considerably improved” since the February announcement that talks were resuming and a March 30 meeting of their prime ministers at a cricket match between their national teams, said S.D. Muni, a retired Indian diplomat and research professor at the Institute of South Asian Studies in Singapore.
“There is an understanding in New Delhi also that we can do business with each other with whatever reservations there are on the question of terrorism,” Muni said in a phone interview last week. “This kind of an attack I hope is not to vitiate that move toward greater understanding,” he said.
Pakistan has backed Islamic militant groups fighting in the Indian-administered portion of the disputed territory of Kashmir.
Before its interruption, the peace process made progress on a proposal to settle the Kashmir dispute, Pakistan’s former foreign minister, Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, told India’s Mint newspaper in January.
Talks between India and Pakistan are important for stability in South Asia and for U.S. hopes of resolving the decade-old war in Afghanistan, the U.S. State Department has said. That importance increased as President Barack Obama ordered a start this month to withdrawals of American troops that will lead to an end of the U.S. combat role in Afghanistan by 2014.
--Editors: Paul Tighe, Jim McDonald
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