ISLAMABAD (Reuters) -After decades of distrust and blaming each other for fuelling militancy, Indian and Pakistani officials began their first ever talks on Tuesday on how to fight terrorism together.
The panel meeting in Islamabad, was proposed by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when they met in Cuba last September to revive a three-year-old peace process, suspended after bomb attacks on Mumbai in July killed 186.
The meeting comes 15 days after fire-bombs on an Indian train bound for Pakistan killed 68 people, both Indians and Pakistanis, in an attack both sides said was aimed at sabotaging peace efforts.
The heads of both delegations are foreign ministry additional secretaries, with Tariq Usman Hyder leading the Pakistani side, and K.C. Singh heading the Indian delegation, officials said.
Not much is expected from the one-day talks, given the history of suspicion between neighbours that have fought three wars since independence, when Pakistan was carved out of the partition of India 60 years ago.
Only time will tell whether the panel develops a meaningful mechanism for the exchange of information between two governments that face more than their fair share of problems from militants fighting for religious or separatist causes.
Presently, both sides hold the other at arms length whenever requests for a joint investigation, or timely sharing of information and evidence, are made.
Most recently, Pakistan asked to participate in a probe into last month’s attack on the Samjhauta Express train travelling between New Delhi and Lahore.
India declined the request, though the Pakistani side still expects evidence will be shared at the talks in Islamabad.
“The Indian leadership had assured us that whatever information they have by the time the meeting takes place, they would share it with us and we expect to hear from them,” Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said on Monday.
India has long blamed Pakistan for fuelling an insurgency raging since 1989 in Kashmir and the cause of two of the wars fought.
Violence in Kashmir has tailed off in the last four years, as Islamabad responded to India’s demand to rein in militants based in Pakistan.
While there is still some infiltration across the ceasefire line dividing the Himalayan region, Indian officials say the number of militants sneaking across from Pakistan has fallen.
The peace process begun in January 2004 has brought an improvement in diplomatic, transport and sporting links, but has yet to achieve significant progress on the core dispute over Kashmir.