03/06/2007, 00.00
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First meeting of Indo-Pakistani panel on terrorism

Delegations from rival nations met today in Islamabad; main issues on the table: February’s attack against the ‘Friendship Express’ and intelligence sharing.

Islamabad (AsiaNews/Agencies) – After years of distrust over terrorism, a joint Indo-Pakistani panel on terrorism met today for the first time in Islamabad in what analysts consider a very good start.

The meeting comes 15 days after fire-bombs on the “Friendship Express” bound for Pakistan killed 68 people, mostly Pakistanis, in an attack that renewed tensions between the two countries.

The attack against what the Indians call the Samjhauta Express will take up much of the talks that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have promoted since September 2005.

At that time the peace process between the two countries, which had fought three wars in 60 years, was mired in mutual recriminations over the Mumbai railway attack that killed 186 people and which India blamed on Kashmiri separatists.

The two delegations are headed by foreign ministry deputy secretaries, Tariq Usman Hyder for Pakistan and K.C. Singh for India.

Given the history of suspicion between the two neighbours, not much is expected from the one-day talks. Both accuse the other of supporting terrorist groups operating in their neighbour’s territory.

Still, analysts view the meeting as a very important start.

Intelligence sharing was also on the table. For instance, Pakistan wants to participate in a probe of last month's attack on the Samjhauta Express, a request New Delhi has so far denied.

The peace process between the two powers began in January 2004 and has had positive results in diplomatic terms but also in the areas of transportation and sports. However, it has not seen any significant movement on the crucial issue of Kashmir.

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