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India, Pakistan premiers agree to keep up talks

The prime ministers of India and Pakistan ended closed-door talks in Colombo with an agreement to keep alive their peace process despite escalating tensions.

world Updated: Aug 02, 2008 20:49 IST

The prime ministers of nuclear-armed India and Pakistan ended closed-door talks in Colombo on Saturday with an agreement to keep alive their peace process despite escalating tensions, diplomats said.

Indian foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon said Premier Manmohan Singh and his Pakistan counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani agreed last month's bombing of India's embassy in Kabul and other events had "cast a pall" on peace efforts.

But "both prime ministers said we need to overcome these (problems) and move forward," Menon told reporters, adding Gilani agreed to probe charges Pakistani intelligence was behind the embassy suicide attack that killed some 60 people.

"Prime Minister Gilani said he would conduct an independent investigation (into the Kabul blast) -- he will discuss the matter with (Afghan) President (Hamid) Karzai and will look into the matter," Menon said.

Gilani later told reporters he would raise the issue in bilateral talks with Karzai on the sidelines of a South Asian summit being attended by the leaders that winds up on Sunday.

"I am meeting President Karzai tomorrow. If they give me evidence, then we will look into the matter," said Gilani, who condemned the embassy attack in his speech to the opening session of the eight-member South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

Karzai last month squarely blamed Pakistan's intelligence service for the embassy bombing -- a charge Islamabad has denied as "rubbish."

"The (Indian) prime minister was relatively frank in expressing his views," said Menon, adding the two leaders "reviewed where we were in normalising ties."

He said Singh raised in the talks the embassy attack, a spurt in frontier ceasefire violations and claims of increased militant infiltration into revolt-hit Indian Kashmir.

Islamabad denies India's charges it assists the Muslim rebels, in turn accusing New Delhi of fuelling sectarian violence on its soil.

Tensions between India and Pakistan, which have fought three wars since 1947, two over disputed Kashmir, have been seen as overshadowing the summit, aimed at fostering greater economic cooperation in the impoverished region.

Indian media say the government also suspects Islamabad's hand in bombings a week ago in the Indian cities of Ahmedabad and Bangalore that claimed 50 lives.