India and Pakistan have agreed to convene a joint anti-terrorism panel in the hope of curbing future tensions between the two south Asian nuclear rivals.
A meeting between Pranab Mukherjee, Indian foreign minister, and Pakistani leaders on Saturday produced no major breakthroughs in the Kashmir peace process, senior government officials said. But officials said the new anti-terrorism panel was designed to help to expedite communications in times of crisis, especially after terrorist attacks.
India has long accused Pakistan of arming and supporting Muslim separatists in the partitioned mountainous province of Kashmir. India controls almost two-thirds of the predominantly Muslim region, while Pakistan controls the remaining third. The two countries have fought three wars and a number of skirmishes over the territory.
A peace process begun in 2004 was suspended by India in July after it blamed a Pakistani militant group for terrorist attacks in Mumbai that killed 186 people. This weekend’s visit by Mr Mukherjee was meant to help revive talks.
Following meetings in Islamabad with Pakistani leaders, including General Pervez Musharraf, the military ruler, Mr Mukherjee said: “To have enduring peace and friendship between Pakistan and India is absolutely necessary.”
The next round of Kashmir peace talks is due to begin in March. Khurshid Kasuri, Pakistan’s foreign minister, is also due to visit New Delhi next month for further discussions.
But Pakistani officials also revived calls for Manmohan Singh, India’s prime minister, to visit Pakistan with senior officials, saying they would like to see a visit take place in the first half of this year.
“Pakistan still insists that no major progress can be achieved without resolving Kashmir,” a senior Pakistani official said. “But if Prime Minister Singh comes to Pakistan, that would give energy to this process.”