NEW DELHI: Top Indian and Pakistani foreign ministry officials met Wednesday to bolster a fragile peace dialogue undermined by fresh tensions over the 2008 Mumbai attacks and political flux in Pakistan.
New Delhi suspended a four-year peace process with Islamabad after the attacks on India’s financial capital by 10 gunmen that left 166 people dead.
The full peace dialogue only resumed in February last year.
Wednesday’s meeting between Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai and his Pakistani counterpart Jalil Abbas Jilani stretched to two sessions covering peace and security, confidence building measures and Kashmir.
The two top civil servants in their respective ministries will hold further talks Thursday morning – followed by a joint press conference.
The atmosphere of the talks was soured by India’s recent arrest of Sayed Zabiuddin Ansari, suspected of being a key handler for the Mumbai attackers who were members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group.
India says Ansari has admitted helping to coordinate the deadly assault from a command post in Karachi, and his testimony has renewed Indian accusations that “state elements” in Pakistan were involved.
“It is no longer possible to deny that though the incident happened in Mumbai, there was a control room in Pakistan before and during the incident,” Home Minister P Chidambaram said Wednesday.
“Without state support, the control room could not have been established.”
Returning Tuesday from a visit to Tajikistan, Indian Foreign Minister SM Krishna said the information extracted from Ansari would have to be corroborated with other sources.
“That is when we will have to make a value judgment whether Pakistan can be trusted or not,” Krishna told reporters.
He also said it was a “matter of great regret” that Lashkar founder Hafiz Saeed – accused of masterminding the 2008 attacks – was still “moving freely in Pakistan”.
The United States has offered a $10 million reward for information leading to Saeed’s conviction.
Pakistan has indicted seven people for their alleged role in the Mumbai attacks but their trial, which began in 2009, has been beset by delays.
Thursday’s foreign secretaries’ meeting was to have taken place at the end of last month, but was postponed in the uncertainty that followed the Pakistani Supreme Court’s dismissal of Yousaf Raza Gilani as prime minister.
“No one should expect any substantive outcome from this diplomatic meeting,” G Parthasarathy, former Indian envoy to Pakistan, told AFP.
“Who is the real leader in Pakistan and whom should India be talking to? The only significance of the meeting is: Yes, we met and we will continue to meet.”
The foreign secretaries are expected to lay the ground for another round of talks between their respective foreign ministers – originally scheduled for July 18 but also postponed with a new date yet to be announced.
More in PakistanUN leader condemns lack of regulation for arms trade