NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Thursday he was hopeful of restoring talks “sooner or later” to improve ties with rival Pakistan after their last meeting ended in acrimony over the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
The two countries’ prime ministers, interior ministers and foreign secretaries — the top diplomats — have all met this year to try to revive a peace process broken off by India after the attacks on Mumbai by Pakistan-based militants.
But the latest meeting, between Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and his Indian counterpart, S.M. Krishna, on July 15, ended with only an agreement to keep talking.
“I sincerely hope that ... we will sooner or later be able to restore the dialogue to give it a proper sense of purpose,” Singh told reporters.
Singh refused to be drawn into a debate on whether the meeting between Qureshi and Krishna had failed after they openly sparred at a joint news conference following the talks, underscoring the deep mistrust between the nuclear-armed rivals.
Pakistan in particular took exception to remarks on the eve of the talks by a senior Indian civil servant accusing its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency of involvement in the Mumbai attack, which killed 166 people.
“I can say we are too close to the events to pass a firm judgement on the outcome of the recent discussions between the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan,” he said.
“I think there was agreement on a large number of issues having a bearing on our relationship.
“I think the way the press conference was handled at the end of the visit by the foreign minister of Pakistan could have been avoided because it detracts from a large element of agreement reached between the foreign ministers of the two countries.”
Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan have fought three wars since they won independence in 1947. Their rivalry has also spilled over into Afghanistan, where both countries have competed for influence.
The United States has been encouraging both countries to resolve their differences, particularly over the Himalayan region of Kashmir, although it avoids any hint of direct interference.
Security remains India’s top concern after the attack on Mumbai killed 166 people, and New Delhi wants Islamabad to speed up efforts to bring the perpetrators to justice, including the LeT chief Hafiz Saeed.
Pakistan says there is no evidence against Saeed and his group and wants India to resolve the dispute over Kashmir.
India says while Pakistan is fighting militants on its western borders with Afghanistan, it protects anti-India groups on its soil. Islamabad denies the charge.
“We believe Pakistan should be as serious in paying attention to terror on the western borders of Pakistan as on the eastern borders of our side,” Singh said.
(Editing by Sugita Katyal)
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