02-13-2010, 11:09 PM
Pakistan: Good ties with India to fight militancy
ISLAMABAD – Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said Saturday that good relations between his country and India were essential to fight militancy, and that he wants a resumption of wide-ranging talks between the two longtime rivals.
Zardari's comments came a day after top diplomats from the two countries agreed to hold talks in Delhi on Feb. 25 — their first formal dialogue since the 2008 deadly Mumbai siege.
The agreement marks a significant thawing of relations between the two countries. Ties have long been marred by disputes over the Himalayan territory of Kashmir and plummeted after the Mumbai attack, which India blamed on Pakistan-based militants.
The United States has been pressuring both sides to resume talks, hoping that reduced tensions between them will help its strategy against militants in Afghanistan and in 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 to fight against Taliban militants on the Afghan border.
A statement from Zardari's office Saturday said the president met with Pakistan's high commissioner to India and told him that "good neighborly relations were essential for the welfare of the people of both countries and also for fighting militancy."
Zardari said he wants wide-ranging talks known as the composite dialogue to resume. India put the talks on hold after the Mumbai attacks. That dialogue covered a broad range of issues and had been intended to lead toward a full normalization 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 operating in Pakistan.
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 region, and insurgent groups seeking either independence or a merger with Pakistan have been fighting Indian rule there since 1989.