India and Pakistan Make Humble Attempts To Improve Ties

India and Pakistan are making a fresh attempt to soothe ties strained by the 2008 Mumbai attacks, amid a growing realization that a stable relationship between the two South Asian rivals is key to resolving the Afghan crisis in the region.

Top diplomats from the two countries are meeting in New Delhi in their first formal dialogue in more than a year, CNN reports.

As Pakistan’s foreign secretary, Salman Bashir, arrived in New Delhi, India announced that his schedule on Thursday would be broader than previously announced. Besides meeting with the Indian foreign secretary, Nirupama Rao, Mr. Bashir will also meeting with India’s minister of external affairs, S. M. Krishna, and the country’s national security adviser, the newly appointed Shivshankar Menon.

For India, which made the offer to start the talks, merely returning to formal diplomacy stirred domestic controversy as well as confusion. The offer underscored how advancing the Pakistan issue has become a personal priority — and a political risk — for the Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh, New York Times reports.

According to Bloomber, for the U.S., Pakistan is an "indispensable player as far as a resolution in Afghanistan is concerned," Zorawar Daulet Singh, an international relations analyst at the New Delhi-based Centre for Policy Alternatives, said. "This gives Pakistan a significant amount of leverage that they are trying to use to seek concessions" in disputes with India, he said.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates last month praised India’s restraint after the Mumbai raid while saying a repeat attack would test its patience.

"While we would like to see India and Pakistan reach a stable relationship, they will do so on their own terms at the appropriate time," Robert Blake, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, said in a Feb. 18 speech to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh scrapped five years of peace talks after a rampage by 10 Pakistani gunmen killed 166 people in the November 2008 raid on India’s financial center. Singh demanded Pakistan close down militant groups plotting against India, including the Lashkar-e-Taiba organization India blamed for the three-day assault on Mumbai.

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