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Dec 17, 2008 at 02:55pm IST

India-Pakistan talks stalled after attacks

Srinagar: Tentative peace talks between India and Pakistan have stalled after the Mumbai attacks, India said on Tuesday, and can only resume if Islamabad takes more decisive action against militant groups on its soil.

The talks, known as the composite dialogue, began in 2004 after the two nuclear-armed neighbours almost came to the brink of war two years earlier over an attack on the Indian parliament blamed on Pakistan-based militant groups.

Those talks were thrown into jeopardy last month by the Mumbai attacks, which killed at least 179 people and which India has blamed on Islamist militant group Lashkar-e-Toiba.

FRAGILE RELATIONS: The Mumbai terror attacks by Pakistan based militants has angered Indian authorities

"There is a pause in the composite dialogue process because of the attack on Mumbai," Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee told reporters in the disputed region of Kashmir.

The peace process has brought better diplomatic, trade and sporting ties but little progress has been made on major disputes such as the divided Jammu and Kashmir region.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman in Islamabad said Pakistan was committed to the peace process while resigned to a pause in it.

"It's in the larger interests of the whole region," said the spokesman, Mohammad Sadiq.

"If Mr Mukherjee says there's a pause, then there's a pause." India, the United States and Britain have blamed Lashkar-e-Toiba and other affiliated groups for the Mumbai attacks, saying Pakistan must do more to stamp out militants.

Lashkar was set up to fight Indian rule in Kashmir and has been linked by US officials and analysts to Pakistan's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) military spy agency, who they say use it as a tool to destabilise India.

Pakistan in turn has promised to cooperate in investigations and has denied any official links to the Mumbai attacks, but has also said anyone caught in Pakistan will be tried in Pakistan.

DOMESTIC PRESSURE

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since independence from Britain's colonial rule in 1947.

Fearing another conflict, Western leaders have urged India to show restraint and Pakistan to act decisively against terrorists.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been under domestic pressure to respond robustly to the Mumbai attacks.

"We are not planning any military action," Defence Minister AK Anthony told reporters in New Delhi.

"But at the same time, unless Pakistan takes actions against those terrorists who are operating from their soil against India and also against all those who are behind the Mumbai terrorist attack, things will not be normal," he said.

Washington has intensified diplomatic pressure to keep India-Pakistan relations from worsening and to keep Pakistan committed to the US-led war on terrorism.

Pakistan has arrested scores of activists from an Islamic charity India says is a front for Lashkar-e-Toiba, and says it will abide by a UN decision to put the group's founder Hafiz Saeed on a sanctions list of people and organisations linked to al Qaeda.

But a similar Pakistani crackdown on Lashkar and Jaish-e-Mohammad after the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament was widely regarded as a sham.

Mukherjee said it would be difficult to resume the peace process with Pakistan unless Islamabad demonstrated a firm resolve to stamp out such groups.

"Words must be followed by actions," he said.

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