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India Sets Condition for Improved Relations with Pakistan

India says it is ready for improved relations with Pakistan if it takes steps to clamp down on terrorism. The two rival nuclear powers are preparing to hold their first official talks in over a year.

During an address to parliament Monday, President Pratibha Patil expressed India's willingness to explore a meaningful relationship with Pakistan.

But the Indian President says this is only possible if Pakistan addresses the threat of terrorism seriously, and takes effective steps to prevent terrorist activities directed at India.

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The remarks come days before top diplomats from the two countries meet to resume a dialogue that was broken in 2008, when terror strikes in Mumbai prompted New Delhi to put on hold a four-year peace process between the nuclear rivals.

The meeting on Thursday in New Delhi is going ahead despite calls by the opposition to call off the talks following a bomb attack at a popular bakery in Pune earlier this month. The attack killed 15 people, including two foreigners.

It was the first big terror strike in India since the Mumbai assault, which New Delhi blamed on Pakistan-based militants.

But this time, the Indian government is pressing ahead with its initiative of resuming the stalled dialogue.

Foreign policy analysts in New Delhi have welcomed the decision. A former Indian foreign secretary, Lalit Mansingh, says it is necessary for both countries to have channels of communication open.

"Fifteen months we did not talk to each other," Mansingh said. "And so not talking is not giving any returns. It is not making our country any safer from terrorist attacks, and by talking at least we derive some benefits. Therefore it is necessary especially as the two countries have nuclear weapons, have reasons to discuss issues of terrorism. It will be of benefit to have these discussions."

However, both countries have indicated that they have differing expectations from the dialogue. India has said it wants to focus on counter-terrorism issues, and that Islamabad should show it is serious in reining in Islamist groups responsible for the Mumbai attacks.

Pakistan says it wants to resume talks on a range of issues such as Kashmir, the disputed territory claimed by both countries that lies at the heart of their rivalry.

Despite these differences, the decision by the rivals to return to the table is seen as a major step forward in lowering tensions between them.