India, Pakistan agree to resume peace talks

Previous talks were frozen following 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack, perpetrated by a Pakistani group; Pakistani PM calls move an opening of a new chapter in the two countries' relations.

Mumbai attack hotel on fire 311 AP (photo credit: AP)
Mumbai attack hotel on fire 311 AP
(photo credit: AP)
NEW DELHI — India  and Pakistan announced Thursday they would resume wide-ranging peace talks that were frozen after the 2008 terrorist attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai, which were blamed on Pakistan-based militants.
The US has been pressing the nuclear-armed rivals to restart their peace efforts in hopes that reducing tensions along their border would free Pakistan to focus on its fight against Taliban militants — a key element of US strategy in Afghanistan.
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The decision followed talks Sunday between the foreign secretaries of the two countries in Bhutan, the latest in a yearlong string of meetings of top officials intended to rebuild the nations' shattered trust.
A statement released simultaneously in New Delhi and Islamabad said the new talks would focus on counter-terrorism, humanitarian issues, peace and security, the disputed Kashmir region and other border issues.
The foreign minister of Pakistan will visit India by July to review the progress of the talks.
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani welcomed the talks and praised his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh, for the "opening of a new chapter in the relations between the two countries, which Pakistan fully reciprocates."
India and Pakistan have fought three wars — two of them over Kashmir — since they won independence from Britain in 1947. Kashmir is divided between the two countries, which both claim the Himalayan territory in its entirety.
India broke off reportedly fruitful peace efforts after 10 militants from Pakistan laid siege to the financial capital of Mumbai in November 2008, killing 166 people.
India has accused Pakistani intelligence of being intricately involved in the planning of that attack, and insisted it would not return to the negotiating table until Pakistan cracks down on Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group blamed for carrying it out.
It was not immediately clear why India changed its mind.
Pakistani officials have bristled at criticism they are not doing enough, noting that seven suspects in the Mumbai attacks have been put on trial. Islamabad says it needs more evidence from Indian investigators to make additional indictments.
India has criticized Pakistan's handling of the prosecution. The trial has been slowed by several procedural delays and the judge has been changed three times.
For its part, Pakistan has called on New Delhi to take action against those responsible for the Feb. 18, 2007, bombing of a train on the Pakistan-India route set up during an earlier thaw in relations that killed 68 passengers.
Last month, a Hindu nationalist confessed to an Indian court that Hindu hard-liners were involved in that attack.