Zardari wants composite talks with India resumed

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari today said good relations between his country and India were essential to fight militancy, and that he wants a resumption of wide-ranging talks between the two longtime rivals.

Zardari’s comments came a day after top diplomats from

the two countries agreed to hold talks in Delhi on February 25 - their first formal dialogue since the 2008 deadly Mumbai siege.

The agreement marks a significant thawing of relations between the two countries. Ties have long been marred by disputes over the Himalayan territory of Kashmir and plummeted after the Mumbai attack, which India blamed on Pakistan-based militants.

The United States has been pressuring both sides to resume talks, hoping that reduced tensions between them will help its strategy against militants in Afghanistan and in Pakistan’s tribal belt.

If tensions between Pakistan and India ease, it may enable Islamabad to shift some troops away from its border with India to fight against Taliban militants on the Afghan border.

A statement from Zardari’s office today said the president met Pakistan’s high commissioner to India and told him that “good neighbourly relations were essential for the welfare

of the people of both countries and also for fighting militancy.” Zardari said he wants wide-ranging talks known as the composite dialogue to resume.

India put the talks on hold after the Mumbai attacks. That dialogue covered a broad range of issues and had been intended to lead toward a full normalisation of relations.

Leaders of the two countries have met on the

sidelines of international conferences since the attacks, but broad engagement with Pakistan remains a sensitive issue in New Delhi because of continuing suspicions that Islamabad has not done enough to rein in Muslim extremists operating in Pakistan.