AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE
NEW DELHI: India and Pakistan’s foreign secretaries were to meet Wednesday to bolster a fragile peace dialogue undermined by political flux in Pakistan and fresh tensions over the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
A senior Indian government official said the talks in New Delhi between Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai and his Pakistani counterpart Jalil Abbas Jilani had the sole aim of keeping the “dialogue process on track.”
Their meeting was to have taken place at the end of last month, but was postponed in the uncertainty that followed the Pakistani Supreme Court’s dismissal of Yousuf Raza Gilani as prime minister.
Analysts said the upheaval in Islamabad had taken some of the momentum out of the peace dialogue between the nuclear-armed South Asian rivals, who have fought three wars since the sub-continent was partitioned in 1947.
Moreover, the atmosphere has been soured by India’s arrest of a man suspected of being a key handler for the 10 Pakistan-based militants who carried out the 2008 Mumbai attacks, killing 166 people.
India says the suspect has admitted helping to coordinate the deadly assault from a command post in Karachi, and his testimony has renewed Indian accusations that “state elements” in Pakistan were involved.
“The blame game has started again and the secretaries’ meeting comes at a crucial juncture,” said Wilson John, a foreign policy analyst at the Observer Research Foundation, an independent think tank in New Delhi.
“Too much heat and dust has been stirred up at various levels.” Pakistan has indicted seven people for their alleged role in the Mumbai attacks but their trial, which began in 2009, has been beset by delays.
India suspended a four-year peace process with Pakistan after the attacks and talks only resumed in February last year.
With both sides still deadlocked on their core dispute over the divided Himalayan territory of Kashmir, they have sought to make progress in less contentious subjects like bilateral trade.
They have also agreed to enhance cooperation on terrorism, human trafficking, narcotics, counterfeit currency and cyber crime.
The foreign secretaries are expected to lay the the ground for another round of talks between their respective foreign ministers – originally scheduled for July 18 but also postponed with a new date yet to be announced.
“No one should expect any substantive outcome from this diplomatic meeting,” G. Parthasarthy, former Indian envoy to Pakistan told AFP.
“Who is the real leader in Pakistan and whom should India be talking to? The only significance of the meeting is: Yes, we met and we will continue to meet.”