Pakistani, Indian officials to meet in Bhutan: official

Pakistani and Indian officials will meet at a regional conference in Bhutan next month to resume a rapprochement process between the nuclear-armed rivals, an official said on Saturday.

The talks are to be held during a meeting of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) in Bhutan, foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said in a statement.

"The foreign secretaries of Pakistan and India will meet on the margins of the SAARC Standing Committee meeting scheduled to take place in Thimphu on 6-7 February 2011," the statement said.

India suspended a peace dialogue with Pakistan in the wake of the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, which claimed 166 lives, and the two countries recently begun to explore a resumption of structured talks.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi held a meeting with his Indian counterpart S.M. Krishna in Islamabad in July.

The discussions were the third high-level contact in a six-month thaw, which the United States has encouraged as a means of boosting regional stability, given the war in Afghanistan.

But the talks ended on a sour note with Qureshi blaming India for a "selective focus on terror" and ignoring the thorny issues that separated the South Asian neighbours.

India accuses Pakistan of failing to crack down sufficiently on militant groups on its territory, including those which New Delhi blames for the Mumbai carnage.

Relations between the two countries, which have fought three wars since the subcontinent was partitioned in 1947, have been plagued by border and resource disputes, and accusations of Pakistani militant activity against India.

India and Pakistan have fought two wars over the disputed Kashmir region and Kashmiri militants have been fighting New Delhi's rule for two decades in an insurgency that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

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