India-Pakistan Peace Process in the Doldrums
By NEIL MacFARQUHAR, New York Times, September 28, 2009
UNITED NATIONS — An attempt by India and Pakistan to agree on resuming either open or back-channel negotiations over the full range of their differences stalled on Sunday, stuck once more by the fallout from the 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai by Pakistani militants.
After meeting for nearly two hours on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, the foreign ministers of the two countries, Shah Mahmood Qureshi of Pakistan and S. M. Krishna of India, said both sides endorsed the idea of resuming negotiations but failed to concur on a timetable.
India, without making it an outright condition that resuming talks depended on Pakistan’s prosecuting of those responsible for the Mumbai attacks, made clear that substantial progress would be required before negotiations could restart, said Salman Bashir, Pakistan’s foreign secretary, the No. 2 in the ministry.
“It has not been spelled out in that manner, but they want to see some visible action,” Mr. Bashir told reporters at a hotel in Midtown Manhattan where the talks were held. Pakistan had proposed restarting talks before year’s end, an idea the Indians did not reject outright but did not accept either, he said.
Militants of the Pakistani-based group Lashkar-e-Taiba killed 163 people while rampaging through downtown Mumbai, India’s financial capital, last November.
After repeated delays, the trial of eight men accused of helping plan the attack is due to start in Pakistan on Saturday, but the Indian government has demanded that the Pakistanis reach higher in the group’s ranks. Both Indian and Western officials blame Hafez Saeed, the founder of Lashkar, for masterminding the attacks. He was released from house arrest, but Mr. Qureshi said he was still being questioned based on evidence presented to the Pakistanis.
India seeks strengthened relations with Pakistan, Mr. Krishna said, but its neighbor’s fight against terrorist groups needed time to “gather greater momentum.” It is impossible that so few could have been responsible for attacks on the scale of those carried out in Mumbai, he said.
“We have continuing concerns about the threat from extremism and terrorist groups in Pakistan,” Mr. Krishna said.
The Indian government faced a wave of public criticism last summer after the two countries first issued a joint statement saying they would work on resuming talks.
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