Officials from India, Pakistan talk in New Delhi

July 26, 2011 - 5:58 AM
India Pakistan

Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, left, shakes hands with her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir before a meeting in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, July 26, 2011. Top Indian and Pakistani officials began talks in New Delhi on Tuesday against the backdrop of a recent terror attack that killed 20 people in India's financial capital. (AP Photo/Gurinder Osan)

NEW DELHI (AP) — High-level Indian and Pakistani officials held talks Tuesday against the backdrop of a recent terror attack that killed 20 people in India's financial capital.

The foreign secretaries' meeting, just five months after the nations resumed bilateral discussions, was expected to focus on confidence-building measures including cross-border trade and visa protocols before the countries' foreign ministers meet Wednesday.

"This is essentially a preparatory round," Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao told reporters before meeting Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir in New Delhi. "We had a very good meeting in Islamabad last month, and this has, in a sense, set the trend for our discussions here today."

The South Asian neighbors resumed talks in February after almost a two-year break following the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack in which 10 Pakistani gunmen killed 166 people.

In the bombings in Mumbai earlier this month, suspicion has fallen on the Indian Mujahideen, an Islamic militant group linked to Pakistan's Lashkar-e-Taiba that has claimed past attacks using similar explosives. Indian officials say they are still investigating the case, however, and it was not clear if India and Pakistan would be discussing it this week.

"We have every reason to be satisfied with our joint endeavors for the cause of peace and stability and for good relations between our two countries," Bashir said.

Tuesday's talks lasted a few hours, but the discussions were not detailed afterward.

Since February, Indian and Pakistani officials have discussed a range of issues including terrorism threats, cooperation on the 2008 Mumbai attacks investigation and the divided Himalayan territory of Kashmir, which both sides claim in its entirety.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told reporters Tuesday in Islamabad that the talks were the "only way forward to improve ties with India."

His newly installed foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, said she hoped Wednesday's meeting with Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna is productive. The two are expected to review progress so far made on issues including security, water sourcing and commerce while also looking for ways to further boost cooperation.

It is in the "interest of Pakistan that the dialogue should be result-oriented," Khar told reporters in Lahore, Pakistan, before boarding a flight to Delhi. "We should be positive in our engagement, and we are."

India's defense minister also said the two sides would hopefully "be able to find a solution in the long run," but would plan for contingencies.

"We will continue dialogue on the one side and on the other side, we will strengthen our national security apparatus," Defense Minister A.K. Antony said.

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Associated Press reporter Munir Ahmed in Islamabad contributed to this report.