No Breakthrough In India-Pakistan Talks

NEW DELHI (AP) - The foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan met Sunday but failed to set any dates for the resumption of a peace dialogue that has been stalled since the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks that New Delhi blamed on Pakistan-based insurgents.

The two hostile neighbors had been expected to announce a date for a meeting between their foreign ministers in the Indian capital, but failed to do so after a 90-minute session in Bhutan's capital.

Vishnu Prakash, the spokesman for India's external affairs ministry, said Indian foreign secretary Nirupama Rao and her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir had "useful and frank discussions" on the steps needed to resume the dialogue.

"The foreign secretaries will brief their respective governments of their discussions," he said in a statement.

Rao and Bashir met in Thimphu, the Bhutanese capital, on the sidelines of a meeting of the South Asian regional grouping set up in 1985 to promote trade and economic cooperation.

Prakash said the two foreign secretaries "agreed on the need for a constant dialogue between India and Pakistan to resolve all outstanding issues."

This was the first meeting between the foreign secretaries since failed talks between the foreign ministers of the two countries last July in Pakistan.

India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over control of the disputed Kashmir region since they won independence from Britain in 1947. Kashmir is divided between the two countries which both claim the Himalayan territory in its entirety.

India has insisted that no real improvement in relations can take place until Pakistan demonstrates its determination to crack down on Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group allegedly behind the Mumbai attacks which killed 166 people.

Pakistan helped establish Lashkar-e-Taiba about 20 years ago to pressure India over Kashmir. The Pakistani government banned the group in 2002 following U.S. pressure, but many analysts believe it still maintains links with the militants.

Pakistani officials have bristled at criticism they are not doing enough, noting that seven suspects in the Mumbai attacks have been put on trial. Islamabad says it needs more evidence from Indian investigators to make additional indictments.

India has criticized Pakistan's handling of the prosecution of the seven suspects, including Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, who have been charged with planning, financing and executing the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Their trial has been slowed by several procedural delays and the judge has been changed three times.

On its part, Pakistan has called on New Delhi to take action against those responsible for the Feb. 18, 2007, bombing of a train on the Pakistan-India route set up during an earlier thaw in relations between the South Asian rivals. Sixty-eight passengers were killed when two bombs ignited a fire that swept through carriages on the train.

Last month, a Hindu nationalist, Swami Aseemanand, confessed to a special court in India about the involvement of Hindu hard-liners in the train bombing. Asseemanand has been arrested as a suspect and formal charges in the train bombing are expected soon. Police are looking for two other suspects.