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US Leaves Decision on Restarting Peace Dialogue up to India and Pakistan

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other key members of his new Cabinet have concluded meetings with a high-ranking American envoy.  The topic of Pakistan was discussed repeatedly during the two days of talks.

The United States is leaving it to India and Pakistan to decide how to re-engage when it comes to their stalled peace dialog.  That is what U.S. Undersecretary of State William Burns told reporters following talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other top Indian government officials.

Burns, who is the senior American career diplomat, said he gave Mr. Singh a letter from U.S. President Barack Obama.  He did not reveal the contents, but it is widely reported here the letter urges India to resume discussions with its neighbor and long-time rival.

India put the peace talks on "pause" following last November's terror attack on Mumbai, which is blamed on militants from Pakistan.

India says it wants to see progress in bringing those responsible for the attack to justice.  Pakistan says resumption of the dialog must focus on resolving the long-standing disagreement over the Kashmir region, claimed by both countries and a catalyst for several of their wars against each other.

Burns says the territorial dispute is something New Delhi and Islamabad do need to discuss, but with the desires of the Kashmiris in mind.

"With regards to Kashmir it remains our view a resolution of that issue has to take into account the wishes of the Kashmiri people," said William Burns.

Ties between Washington and New Delhi are at perhaps their warmest since Indian independence.  That results from last year's landmark agreement signed on civil nuclear cooperation.  

But there are remaining issues from that pact, including parameters for India's reprocessing of nuclear fuel that originates in the United States.  Burns announced negotiations on reprocessing would begin before the end of next month.

Burns also indicated movement on reaching an agreement with India required by U.S. law for all foreign military purchases of sensitive American technology.

"We are making good progress and I am very hopeful that we will be able to get past that issue and move ahead to expand defense cooperation between us," he said.

The agreement would clear the way for a substantial increase of American sales of sophisticated military equipment to India, whose top suppliers are Russia and Israel.

U.S. and Indian diplomats are hoping to have several agreements ready in time for the visit of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in late July.  

 

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