Pakistan accepts Indian offer to resume talks

Pakistan and India will resume official talks later this month, Pakistani officials said today.

The meetings will be the first formal dialogue between the nuclear rivals since the Mumbai siege of 2008.

Pakistani prime minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani’s office and the foreign ministry said Pakistan’s foreign secretary will meet his Indian counterpart in New Delhi on February 25.

The meeting marks a significant thawing of relations between the two countries, which have long been marred by disputes over Kashmir and deteriorated after the Mumbai attacks, which India blamed on Pakistan-based militants.

The US has been pressuring both sides to resume talks, hoping that reduced tensions between the two sides will help its strategy against militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s tribal belt.

If tensions between Pakistan and India ease, it may enable Islamabad to shift some troops away from its border with India and deploy more against Taliban militants on the Afghan border.

New Delhi last week offered to resume high-level peace talks with Pakistan, and today’s statements were the first confirmation Islamabad would take up the offer.

The statement from Mr Gilani’s office said Pakistan would raise “all core issues” at the talks and press India on the need to resolve them quickly.

Dialogue before the Mumbai attacks had covered a broad range of issues and had been intended to lead toward a full normalisation of relations.

Leaders of the two countries have met on the sidelines of international conferences since the attacks, but broad engagement with Pakistan remains a sensitive issue in New Delhi because of continuing suspicions that Islamabad has not done enough to rein in Muslim extremists in Pakistan.

India did not give details of the proposed talks, but has indicated that counter-terrorism would be high on its agenda.

Kashmir, a Himalayan region split between India and Pakistan and claimed by both, is at the heart of decades of bitterness between the two countries.

They have fought two wars over control of the territory and a dozen insurgent groups, which seek either independence or a merger with Pakistan, have been fighting Indian rule there since 1989.

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