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India, Pakistan tensions overshadow SAARC summit

Latest update : 2008-08-02

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani PM Yousaf Raza Gillani are to meet Saturday in Sri Lanka at what one Indian official called a very low point in the relations between the two nations.

 

COLOMBO - The premiers of India and Pakistan meet on Saturday in a worsening atmosphere of bomb attacks on Indian targets that New Delhi says has sent their four-year-old peace process to its lowest point.

 

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will send a strong message to his Pakistani counterpart Yousaf Raza Gillani as the two try to salvage talks after a string of bombs hit Indian cities and its embassy in Kabul last month, together killing over 100 people.

 

India also blames Pakistan for a breach of a 2003 ceasefire on its de facto border in disputed Kashmir, and accuses its spy agency of involvement in the Kabul attack, in which two senior diplomats were among 58 people killed.

 

The Kabul attack, the ceasefire breach, and media speculation about Pakistani links to the bomb attacks on Indian cities have all contributed to the worsening atmosphere.

 

India's top foreign ministry official Shiv Shankar Menon said on Friday the talks were at their lowest point in four years.

 

"It's a very tense atmosphere," said a senior Indian diplomat. "We will want to know if the new civilian government (in Pakistan) is aware of what's going on," the official said, hinting Pakistan's political masters had no oversight on their military spy agency.

 

The two prime ministers are meeting on the sidelines of a two-day South Asian summit beginning on Saturday. The atmosphere of unease between two of the region's biggest members has affected the summit, where terrorism would dominate the otherwise central theme of trade and social cooperation.

 

Menon said the prime ministerial talks were aimed at reducing tensions that had vitiated the atmosphere.

 

"That is why we are talking to Pakistan, that's why we are carrying on these conversations," Menon said.

 

The two sides began a peace initiative four years ago, after coming close to a fourth war in 2002, but the process has sputtered because of political turmoil in Pakistan and, more recently, after the bombings on Indian interests.

 

 

Date created : 2008-08-02

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