India - Pakistan - Afghanistan - Bhutan

India and Pakistan to talk for first time in months


The prime ministers of India and Pakistan will hold talks at a conference in Bhutan this week for the first time since an abortive attempt to resume diplomatic relations in February. Meanwhile the Afghan president is in Delhi for talks Monday.


The proposed meeting between Manmohan Singh and Yousuf Raza Gilani, on the sidelines of a two-day summit of the South Asian Association for Regional
Cooperation (SAARC), will focus on a water-sharing row dating back to 1984.

India broke off all dialogue with Pakistan after attacks on a Mumbai hotel in 2008 killed at least 166 people. India blamed Pakistan-based militants. In February foreign ministry officials met in Delhi, but talks ended with India insisting full talks would require Pakistan to bring those responsible for the Mumbai attacks to justice.

The water sharing dispute they will discuss this week began in 1984, when India began building a dam affecting a river shared by the two countries. The summit in the Bhutanese capital Thimpu opening Wednesday is aiming towards a declaration entitled "Towards a Green and Happy South Asia.”

SAARC was formed in 1985 with the aim of encouraging development and raising living standards in South Asia, but it has achieved little because of the difficult relationship between India and Pakistan. The other members are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

On Monday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai met Singh in New Delhi ahead of the summit.

Two months ago, nine Indians were killed in a suicide attack in Kabul that Indian officials blamed on Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

India has provided more than a billion dollars in assistance to Afghanistan since the fall of the Islamist Taliban regime in 2001 and some 4,000 Indians are building roads, sanitation projects and power lines in Afghanistan. India is also building the new Afghan parliament.

Officials in New Delhi say groups such as the LeT have the tacit support of Pakistan's military and have accused the militants of mounting attacks against Indians in Kabul as part of a south Asian "proxy war".

India's embassy in Kabul was bombed last October and in July 2008.
India has repeatedly urged the global community to stay the course in Afghanistan, is worried that Pakistan and the Taliban could take over once foreign troops begin their pull-out.

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