India, Pakistan 'to open new chapter'

Updated: 2011-11-11 08:10

By Krishan Francis (China Daily)

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ADDU, Maldives - Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Thursday that India and Pakistan needed to stop wasting time trading barbs and open a new chapter in their relationship.

India, Pakistan 'to open new chapter'

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani (right) gestures as Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh looks on after their meeting on the sidelines of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit in Addu, Maldives, on Thursday. [Agencies]


Singh's comments came amid signs of warming ties between the two neighbors, which have fought three wars since gaining independence from Britain.

The two nations decided earlier this year to restart wide-ranging peace talks. Last month, Pakistan quickly returned an Indian helicopter and its crew that had strayed across the tense border, and last week Pakistan announced it would normalize trade with India.

Singh and Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani met for about an hour on Thursday on the sidelines of South Asian Association For Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit to further discuss how to ease tensions between their nations.

Singh praised Gilani as a man of peace and said the two neighbors needed to understand that their destinies are interlinked.

"The time has come to write a new chapter in the history of our relationship," he said, standing beside Gilani.

In their meeting, Singh and Gilani discussed border disagreements, terrorism, trade and the divided territory of Kashmir, Gilani said.

Saying the two sides had a "unique opportunity",' Singh said he expected the next round of talks to be productive and bring the countries closer than they have ever been. No dates for the new talks were announced.

"The (Indian) prime minister has always been open and put his cards on the table," Gilani said. "The next round of talks will ... open a new chapter in the history of the two countries."

The two countries have deep animosity for each other, but many in India see the simmering tensions - and the huge military costs they demand - as a drag on the country's economic ambitions. Singh has long pushed for peace talks, but the 2008 attack on the Indian city of Mumbai by Pakistan-based terrorists froze those efforts.

The two sides agreed to resume the talks earlier this year after their foreign secretaries met on the sidelines of another international summit.

But there is little expectation of a quick deal, which would require significant compromise by both sides.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar reflected that caution, saying on Wednesday, "We have many, many long miles to move ahead still".

The SAARC grouping is holding its 17th meeting in the Indian Ocean archipelago of Maldives. The group comprises India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives.