Indian government's offer of limited parleys dismays Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: India’s offer of a limited dialogue with Pakistan on terrorism has dismayed Islamabad, where the government and analysts believe only full-blown peace talks can foster regional stability.

New Delhi’s call for talks between the top foreign ministry civil servants in the two countries was welcomed last week as indicative of a major breakthrough in relations frozen since the 2008 attacks in Mumbai. But India and Pakistan have yet to announce a date for their first direct talks in 15 months, still haggling over the framework of the dialogue. India’s overture was interpreted as a result of pressure from the United States, keen to keep South Asia trouble free while throwing tens of thousands more troops into battle against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Ending the war in Afghanistan is considered impossible without help from neighbouring Pakistan, accused in the West of still supporting the Taliban and other Al-Qaeda-linked militants.

Regional security is likely to be a focus of talks between US national security adviser James Jones and Pakistani officials today.

But Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani called Composite Dialogue, or peace talks, “the only way forward between civilised countries.” “They have agreed to talk to Pakistan but they don’t want to talk on Kashmir,” he told reporters in Islamabad.

The foreign ministry was in touch with India, he said, calling on the media not to jump to any conclusions.

India broke off the Composite Dialogue, which began in 2004 and had helped to ease tensions significantly, after blaming the Mumbai carnage that killed 166 people on Lashkar-e-Taiba and “official” agencies. It has conditioned a return to talks on Pakistan bringing the perpetrators to justice and dismantling militant groups. An Indian government source said that while Pakistan had taken the “few small steps” needed for talks to resume, it had not gone far enough to merit a return to a full dialogue.

“We have said the talks would include all relevant issues from our side and issues that will contribute to creating an atmosphere of peace and stability between the two countries,” said the Indian government source.

“Maybe these talks would lead to the resumption of the Composite Dialogue. Let us not prejudge the issue,” the source added.

Analysts believe foreign secretary talks will eventually get off the ground as neither side wants the blame for sabotaging the process and hampering international efforts in Afghanistan.