Peace talks with India ‘back on track’: Pakistani minister

By Augustine Anthony, Reuters

ISLAMABAD — A peace process between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan is back on track but needs to make progress on their main dispute, over the divided Himalayan region of Kashmir, Pakistan’s foreign minister said on Wednesday.

Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi held talks with his Indian counterpart, Pranab Mukherjee, on their four-year-old peace process that has improved ties since the neighbours nearly went to war in 2002 but had been in a lull for more than a year because of political turmoil in Pakistan.

Mukherjee’s visit is the first high-level diplomatic contact India has had with a civilian government led by the party of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

The government took power after February polls which followed months of turmoil over President Pervez Musharraf’s bid to hold on to power.

“The elected democratic government has broken that stalemate and we are back on track,” said Qureshi, a senior member of Bhutto’s party, referring to what he described as a “state of suspension” in dialogue.

The only new agreement to come out of the talks was on consular access to each other’s detained nationals but both ministers appeared positive.

“Our interaction was very frank, very candid and very friendly and there has been spirit to move forward on both sides,” Qureshi told a news conference.

Mukherjee said the main purpose of his visit had been to establish contacts with the new government and he was going home satisfied.

Despite warming ties, clashes on their Kashmir border this month, including firing on Monday that India said killed one of its soldiers, have underscored just how tenuous the improvement in relations is.