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India, Pakistan to Hold First Official Talks Since Mumbai Attacks


On Thursday, India and Pakistan hold their first talks in over a year, marking the resumption of an official dialogue which New Delhi snapped in the wake of terror attacks in Mumbai in 2008. The dialogue is a signal that regional tensions are easing, but expectations from the talks remain low.

Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao says the meeting with her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir is "another sincere attempt by India to initiate dialogue with Pakistan".

The talks on Thursday mark the end of a diplomatic freeze which followed the terror attacks in Mumbai in November 2008. After blaming the assault on Pakistan-based militants, India suspended a four-year peace process, and demanded that Islamabad bring the perpetrators of the attack to justice.

India says it is not resuming the full fledged peace process. Ms. Rao has said the "essential focus" of the talks will be on terrorism, and on steps Pakistan is taking to rein in terror groups.

Indian officials say the future of the dialogue will depend not on what New Delhi says, but what it hears from Islamabad on its concerns.

Islamabad wants to raise all bilateral issues which trouble their relationship, and says a narrow agenda will not allow much progress.

Before arriving in New Delhi, Pakistan Foreign Secretary Bashir said that terrorism is a common problem.

Bashir says the disputed region of Kashmir is a priority. He says the issue of sharing of river waters is also important, and there are many other outstanding issues to be discussed.

The differing expectations and agendas outlined by both countries have led to skepticism on whether the dialogue will yield substantial results.

"They may end up talking at cross purposes," said Bharat Karnad, a security analyst with New Delhi's independent Center for Policy Research. "India will emphasize one draft of issues dealing specifically with terrorism, and Pakistan will come back with Kashmir as their main plank. Largely I think it is more atmospherics driven, meaning that they both want to be seen to be doing something, rather than that they are serious that something will actually come out of the talks."

However there are hopes that Thursday's meeting will enable both countries to gradually resume the full fledged peace dialogue which had significantly lowered tensions between the rivals until the Mumbai attacks.

Foreign policy analysts say both countries are also under pressure to resume talks from the United States. Washington wants the South Asian rivals to ease tensions so that Islamabad can deploy more troops to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan.

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