India, Pakistan open new round of peace talks
India and Pakistan launched a fifth round of peace talks Monday, focusing on the dispute over the Himalayan region of Kashmir and cross-border terrorism, officials said.
The talks which were originally scheduled to last two days in New Delhi, were shortened to a day due to political uncertainty in India as the ruling United Progressive Alliance faces a parliamentary confidence vote on Tuesday, reported dpa.
Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon held discussions with his Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir on the Kashmir dispute and confidence-building measures, including implementing cross-border trade and transportation links.
Peace and security measures, including resolving the dispute over the Siachen glacier in Kashmir and a territorial row over Sir Creek marshlands, also featured in the talks, said an Indian foreign ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The issue of terrorism was also taken up against the backdrop of New Delhi suspecting the involvement of Pakistan's spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, in the July 7 suicide attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul that claimed 58 lives.
Islamabad has denied any role in the deadly blast, the first major attack on an Indian mission.
New Delhi, against the backdrop of increasing attacks, also pressed Pakistan to stop the infiltration of militants from Pakistan- administered Kashmir into the part of Kashmir it controls.
Other issues, including the release of prisoners, visa relaxation measures and trade and commerce, also came up in the discussions, the official added.
Bashir who had arrived for talks on Sunday, said Pakistan wanted a "peaceful atmosphere on both sides".
"During the talks, both sides will look into the prospects of a just and peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute," said a statement issued Saturday by Pakistan's Foreign Office.
The nuclear-capable South Asian neighbours have fought three wars, two of them over the disputed Kashmir region.
India and Pakistan launched a bilateral dialogue in 2004 to resolve outstanding disputes relating to their border and Kashmir.
Several "confidence-building measures" have been taken since then to normalize strained relations, including opening of road and rail links, but no headway has been made towards settling the decades-old Kashmir dispute.