Pakistan, India begin talks on cooperation in fighting terrorism

Senior government officials from Pakistan and India on Tuesday began two days of talks to discuss cooperation in fighting terrorism and narcotics trafficking across their border, an official said. The officials from the countries' interior ministries will also discuss releasing each other's civilian prisoners and people who have been held after inadvertently crossing the border, a Pakistani official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

The issue of human trafficking between Pakistan and India also was raised on Tuesday, Pakistan 's Ministry of Interior said in a statement. The two sides will issue a joint statement when they wrap up the meeting Wednesday. Pakistan and India share a long border straddling rugged mountains and deserts. Illicit trade and drug smuggling is common across the border. The two countries commonly arrest each other's nationals, including fishermen along their border in the Arabian Sea , on charges of illegal entry or even spying.

India also suspects Pakistan of backing secessionist Islamic militants who are blamed for terrorist attacks in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir . Pakistan denies backing militants but says it gives moral, political and diplomatic support to Kashmiris' struggle for "freedom."

The two countries separately control parts of Kashmir but each of them claims the whole of the region. The nuclear-armed rivals have fought two wars over the Himalayan region since their independence from British rule in 1947. In 2004, Pakistani and Indian leaders began efforts to normalize relations and try to resolve the Kashmir issue. Tuesday's talks are being held as part of that process that has seen the two countries ease travel restrictions across their border, restore severed travel links and normalize diplomatic ties.

A day before the meeting, India released 59 Pakistani fishermen who had been arrested for alleged illegal entry and fishing in Indian waters in the Arabian Sea .

On Tuesday, Pakistan freed 71 Indian fishermen at Wagah, the main border crossing near the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore . The men had been jailed for alleged illegal fishing in Pakistan 's territorial waters. The Pakistani Foreign Ministry announced last week that they would be released as a goodwill gesture. The former prisoners were given flowers and food by Pakistani officials at Wagah before they walked across into India , according to an Associated Press photographer at the scene, reports the AP.


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