India, Pakistan may lay out talks agenda on Monday | delhi | Hindustan Times
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India, Pakistan may lay out talks agenda on Monday

Indian and Pakistani officials are likely to meet on Monday to decide the agenda of bilateral talks proposed by India after a two-year interval following the attacks in Mumbai.

delhi Updated: Feb 05, 2010 15:48 IST

Indian and Pakistani officials are likely to meet on Monday to decide the agenda of bilateral talks proposed by India after a two-year interval following the attacks in Mumbai.

New Delhi blamed the November 2008 assault, which killed 166 people, on Pakistan-based militants and broke off peace talks until Islamabad acted against the planners of the strike.

But India has come under international pressure in recent months to re-engage Pakistan and help the West stabilise Afghanistan, where the two countries are involved in a proxy battle for influence.

New Delhi's offer of talks comes after global powers endorsed in London last week an Afghan plan to seek reconciliation with the Taliban, a process in which Pakistan is expected to play a key role.

Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao will meet Pakistan's High Commissioner to India Shahid Malik to agree on "where to talk, when to talk and what to talk", a foreign ministry official said.

India has offered "open-ended talks on all outstanding issues affecting peace and security", emphasising counter-terrorism. Pakistan has called for resumption of the broader peace process called the "Composite Dialogue" on a range of issues, including the disputed Kashmir region.

The two sides have in the past argued over the agenda of talks, with Pakistan insisting that Kashmir top the discussions, while India sought a broader dialogue to cover all outstanding issues that have marred ties for more than 60 years.

"There could be some issues regarding the nature of talks which could be addressed through diplomatic channels," a government official with knowledge of the process told Reuters.

Kashmir Day

News of the talks comes on the Kashmir Day holiday in Pakistan, to show solidarity with the people of the region divided between the two countries since independence in 1947.

Muslim-majority Kashmir has been the cause of two of the three wars India and Pakistan have fought since 1947, and still lies at the heart of the nuclear-armed neighbours' rivalry.

India regards the whole of Kashmir as an integral part of its territory but Pakistan wants Kashmiris to decide in a U.N.-mandated plebiscite whether to join Muslim Pakistan or Hindu-majority India.

Marking Kashmir Day, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said in a statement: "We are of the firm belief that the Kashmiris should be associated with the dialogue process."

Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, the main militant group fighting Indian forces in Kashmir, took a cautious line.

"If we, Kashmiris, are not made part of talks how do they think they could resolve Kashmir?," its spokesman Ehsan Illahi told Reuters.