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Central & South Asia
Stage set for India-Pakistan talks
Pakistani foreign secretary arrives in New Delhi amid tensions in Kashmir region.
Last Modified: 25 Feb 2010 04:13 GMT
Salman Bashir is set to meet his Indian
counterpart on Thursday [AFP]

Pakistan's foreign secretary has arrived in New Delhi for bilateral talks with India - the first between the two neighbours since the Mumbai attacks in 2008.

Salman Bashir arrived in the Indian capital on Wednesday amid tensions in the disputed Kashmir region, saying he was "hopeful of a positive outcome".

Official talks between Bashir and Nirupama Rao, his Indian counterpart, are due to take place on Thursday.

"We want to discuss and resolve all disputes with India," Bashir said on Wednesday in Lahore as he prepared to head to New Delhi.

"We want the process of engagement to continue.

"It's an open agenda and nothing is excluded. Pakistan's credentials in counter-terrorism are second to none and the international community appreciates Pakistan's efforts."

Rocky relations

But Indian officials have said they want the talks to focus on complaints that Pakistan has not done enough to fight armed groups who have carried out attacks in India.

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"Our core concern is going to be terror," SM Krishna, India's foreign minister, told the NDTV news channel last week.

The two nuclear-armed nations have had a rocky history, having fought three wars since winning independence from British colonial rule in 1947.

The last round of peace talks were suspended in November 2008 after armed men launched an attack in the heart of Mumbai, India's sprawling financial capital, killing 166 people, and wounding more than 300 others.

New Delhi blamed the assault on a Pakistan-based armed group, and accused Islamabad of failing to curb anti-Indian outfits.

Relations have since thawed following a Pakistani crackdown on those suspected of having links to Lashkar-e-Taiba, the banned group accused of orchestrating the attacks.

Kashmir dispute

The divided region of Kashmir has been another recurring sore spot for the two countries.

Both sides claim the predominantly Muslim region in its entirety and have fought two wars over it in the past.

On the eve of renewed dialogue, the issue has again flared up, with Indian border guards in Kashmir saying they have been fired atfrom the Pakistani side.

The Indian army also said three soldiers were killed in a major battle with fighters in Indian-administered Kashmir.

India accuses Pakistan of allowing fighters to cross its border, a charge Islamabad denies. Pakistan has, however, called for the disputed region to be the focus of Thursday's talks.

New Delhi says it wants to focus on counterterrorism - a desire made more poignant by a bomb blast at a restaurant in the Indian city of Pune just over a week ago, which killed 16 people.

Source:
Agencies
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