February 18, 2010 / 6:46 PM / 9 years ago

INTERVIEW-India security focus would limit talks-Pakistan

* Officials to meet in New Delhi on Feb. 25

* Cannot ignore issues like Kashmir - Qureshi

* New Delhi suspended peace talks after Mumbai attacks



By William Maclean, Security Correspondent

BRUSSELS, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Talks with nuclear-armed rival India will not make the required progress if New Delhi insists on focusing on security, Pakistan said on Thursday, touching on one of the most contentious issues between the Asian neighbours.

Top officials in the foreign ministries of the two countries are to meet in New Delhi on Feb. 25 after India this month offered to hold high-level talks.

"Why this focus on terrorism? How can we have good relations if we just ignore the outstanding issues like Kashmir?" Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told Reuters.

"That’s an ostrich mentality."

Analysts say Pakistan does not want the talks to concentrate on security because it is sensitive to Indian criticism it has not done enough to curb anti-Indian Pakistani militant groups.

Qureshi, in an interview on the sidelines of an Eastwest Institute security conference in Belgium, said much would depend on India’s "mindset" about the agenda of the meeting.

"If they want to narrow it down, if they want to restrict, if they want to overlook reality, overlook the disputes between us, we will not make the headway that is required," he said.



"HOPE FOR THE FUTURE"

"But if we put everything on the table and if we can sit and peacefully negotiate and find a peaceful resolution of the outstanding issues, then I think there is hope for the future."

Asked if his comment meant Pakistan did not want security to dominate the talks, he replied: "If you restrict the dialogue to the area of your interest, then you’re defeating the purpose — — there are our interests as well."

New Delhi suspended a four-year-old peace process with Pakistan after an attack on the Indian city of Mumbai by Pakistan-based Islamist militants in 2008 that killed 166 people.

India had demanded action against the militants it says were behind the assault before the peace process could resume, but offered dialogue despite little progress in Pakistan’s prosecution of seven suspects.

The United States has also urged the two countries to resume engagement to help stabilise Afghanistan, where it is deploying tens of thousands more troops into battle against the militants.

Indian officials say they offered Pakistan open-ended talks on peace and security, emphasising counter-terrorism.

Pakistan has been pushing for the resumption of the full peace process, which centred on a so-called composite dialogue, covering all problems, including tensions over water and their decades old dispute over the divided Kashmir region.

An easing of tension with India would help Pakistan to focus on its fight against al Qaeda-linked militants on its western borders with Afghanistan.

Analysts expect no breakthrough on core disputes, but say any renewed engagement after more than a year is a good sign.

The neighbours have fought three wars since securing independence in 1947, two of them over Muslim-majority Kashmir, which both claim in full but rule in part.

Qureshi said Pakistan would go to the talks "with a constructive and open mind". Asked if Pakistan could do more against the Lashkar-e-Taiba group, blamed by India for the Mumbai assault, he said there was work to do "on both sides of the border".

"Do you think India is free of militant groups? There are lots of militant groups operating in India. The idea is to work together. Why this focus on Lashkar-e-Taiba?... We have issues that go beyond LeT." (Editing by Janet Lawrence)



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