ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - The interior ministers of Pakistan and India agreed to hold further discussion on security issues after their meeting on Friday, which the Pakistani minister described as a “good beginning”.
The meeting between Pakistan’s Rehman Malik and India’s P. Chidambaram took place a day after the nations’ top diplomats expressed optimism that relations between the two nuclear rivals would improve.
“Talks were held in a very good atmosphere and good topics were discussed. I can only say that there is a good message for the people of Pakistan and India, that there has been a very good beginning,” Malik said after the meeting.
India made no immediate comments after the meeting, which was due to continue on Saturday.
Speaking to reporters before the meeting, Malik said he would share with his Indian counterpart “credible evidence” Pakistan had collected against suspects under trial in Pakistan for involvement in the Mumbai attacks.
“I said that it should be change of heart rather than dossiers,” he told a questioner, referring to the information India had provided Pakistan about its own investigation into the Mumbai attack.
Relations between the uneasy neighbours, who have fought three wars since 1947, went into a freeze after Pakistani-based militants killed 166 people in Mumbai in November 2008.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani met on the sidelines of a regional conference in April and agreed to resume talks which India broke off after the attack.
New Delhi accuses Islamabad of supporting militant groups in a bid to wrest control of India’s part of Kashmir and check rising Indian influence in Afghanistan.
Tackling militant groups like the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), blamed by India for the Mumbai attack, has been an Indian precondition for restarting comprehensive talks over water, Kashmir and other disputes.
Pakistan has acknowledged the Mumbai attack was plotted and partly launched from its soil and has put on trial seven suspects, including a senior commander of LeT, for their role in the assault.
But Pakistan’s Supreme Court last month upheld a lower court’s decision to release Hafiz Saeed, the founder of LeT accused by India of masterminding the attack.
Pakistan says India has provided insufficient evidence to prosecute Saeed, who also leads an Islamist charity, Jamaat-ud-Dawa.
Analysts say the Malik-Chidambaram talks were crucial and would set a tone for future discussions. The foreign ministers of Pakistan and India will meet on July 15 in Islamabad to push forward efforts aimed at normalising ties.
Additional reporting by Zeeshan Haider; Editing by Bryson Hull and Ron Popeski