Feb 24 (Reuters) – The foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan will meet in New Delhi on Thursday to resume official contacts which India broke off after militants attacked the Indian city of Mumbai in late 2008.
Here are some of the main problems between the rival neighbours, who have fought three wars since independence from British rule in 1947.
For India, security is the top issue. It has refused to resume a series of talks on problems, known as the composite dialogue, until Pakistan takes more action against Pakistan-based militant groups. In particular, India wants Pakistan to show it is serious in reining in the militants behind the Mumbai attacks, in which 166 people were killed. Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said on Monday that Indian concerns about militants in Pakistan would form the main focus of the talks. India suspects Pakistani security agents support some anti-India groups. Pakistan denies that and says the peace process should not be held hostage to "non-state actors". Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said this month talks would not make required progress if India insisted on focusing on security.
The mostly Muslim Himalayan region of Kashmir is at the heart of hostility between the neighbours and was the cause of two of their three wars (the third was over the founding of Bangladesh). Separatists backed by Pakistan began an insurgency against Indian rule in 1989 and tens of thousands of people have been killed. Most fighters want Kashmir to become part of Pakistan. Many Kashmiris want independence from both India and Pakistan. A November 2003 truce has largely held along the so-called Line of Control dividing Kashmir, despite occasional clashes. Former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf offered in 2003 to set aside a long-standing demand to implement U.N. resolutions for both sides to withdraw troops and for Kashmiris to decide in a vote on whether to be part of India or Pakistan. He later suggested Pakistan would give up its claim over Kashmir if India agreed to soften the Line of Control and let Kashmiris administer their affairs with oversight from both Islamabad and New Delhi. India is agreeable to the long-term goal of softening the border, without any redrawing of the ceasefire line but autonomy and joint oversight go further than India wants. Musharraf’s moves to break the deadlock were criticised in Pakistan for giving away too much and the government that came to power in 2008 has distanced itself from his concessions.
The two countries disagree over use of the water flowing down rivers which rise in Indian Kashmir and run into the Indus river basin in Pakistan. The use of the water is governed by the 1960 Indus Water Treaty under which India was granted the use of water from three eastern rivers, and Pakistan the use of three western rivers. Pakistan says India is unfairly diverting its waters with the upstream construction of barrages and dams. Pakistan, dependent on the water to produce food for its growing population and underpin its economy, wants to put water at the top of the talks agenda, along with Kashmir. Indian denies any unfair diversion of Pakistani water.
Indian and Pakistani forces have faced off across the Siachen glacier in the Himalayas, known as the world’s highest battlefield at 5,500 metres (18,000 feet) above sea level, since 1984. The two sides have been trying to find a solution that would allow them to withdraw troops but India says it is unwilling to bring its forces down until Pakistan officially authenticates the positions they hold. Pakistan has said it is willing to do so but on the condition that it is not a final endorsement of India’s claim over the glacier.
Another boundary dispute is over the 100-km (60-mile) Sir Creek estuary flowing into the Arabian Sea. The dispute has hampered exploration for oil and gas and led to the detention of hundreds of fishermen from the two countries, mostly in areas where demarcation is unclear. The two sides have conducted a survey and exchanged maps showing their respective positions.
Afghanistan has become a major source of friction although Indian and Pakistani differences over Pakistan’s western neighbour have not been a part of their official talks. The two countries have long competed for influence there and Pakistan is deeply suspicious of a rise in India’s presence after the fall of the Taliban in 2001. It accuses India of using Afghanistan as a base to create problems inside Pakistan, including backing separatists in its Baluchistan province. India denies the accusations, saying its focus is on development. (Editing by Nick Macfie)
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – The arrest in Pakistan of a top Afghan Taliban commander should bolster Pakistan’s position as it maneuvers to play a leading role in any Afghan peace process, but probably does not signal a fundamental Pakistani policy shift.
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the most senior Taliban commander ever arrested in Pakistan, was picked up in the southern city of Karachi this month in a raid by Pakistani and U.S. agents.
By Robert Birsel
(Reuters) – A potentially destabilizing dispute has erupted in Pakistan between President Asif Ali Zardari and the judiciary over who has the power to appoint judges.
A Supreme Court panel on Saturday blocked an order from Zardari issued earlier that day appointing two judges, one to the Supreme Court and the other as chief justice of the high court in the city of Lahore.
By Robert Birsel
(Reuters) – Pakistani lawyers boycotted courts on Monday in a protest against unpopular President Asif Ali Zardari, who is in a dispute with the Supreme Court over the appointment of judges.
On Saturday, a Supreme Court panel blocked an order from Zardari issued earlier that day appointing two judges, one to the Supreme Court and the other as chief justice of the high court in the city of Lahore.
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters on Wednesday he had “credible information” that Pakistan Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud was dead but did not have confirmation.
A frenzy of rumors has spread this week that Mehsud had died after being wounded last month by a missile-firing U.S. drone aircraft. Mehsud became chief of the Pakistani Taliban, allied with the Afghan Taliban and fighting to bring down Pakistan’s U.S.-backed government, after former leader Baitullah Mehsud was killed by an unmanned drone in August. Mehsud is a tribal name and the two were not related.
RAWALPINDI, Pakistan (Reuters) – Pakistan offered on Monday to train Afghanistan’s security forces with the dual aim of helping to secure a friendly neighbor over its western border while also watching old rival India over its eastern border.
The United States and Afghanistan’s other Western allies want Afghan forces to take over security responsibilities as a vital step toward the eventual withdrawal of foreign soldiers now battling an intensifying Taliban insurgency.
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan has shown support for Afghanistan’s invitation to the Taliban to take part in a peace council but the old Taliban ally has only limited influence over the militants, who many expect will reject the offer.
The Afghan government on Thursday invited the Taliban to a jirga, or traditional council, during an international conference in London as its Western allies worked out plans to try to end the war in Afghanistan.
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – The Taliban have spread across Afghanistan and are inflicting sharply higher casualties but they might be persuaded to negotiate, with Pakistani help, as they reach the height of their power, a Pakistani analyst has said.
The United States is sending an extra 30,000 soldiers to Afghanistan nine years after driving the Taliban from power but U.S. commanders realize they “cannot shoot their way to victory,” analyst Ahmed Rashid said in paper.
By Robert Birsel
(Reuters) – Defense Secretary Robert Gates made an unannounced trip to Pakistan on Thursday, hoping to deepen ties and persuade the nuclear-armed U.S. ally to root out all militants on its soil, including Afghan Taliban factions.
Here are some questions and answers about U.S.-Pakistani relations:
WHY IS PAKISTAN IMPORTANT FOR THE UNITED STATES?
Pakistani support is crucial for the United States as it strives to defeat al Qaeda and bring stability to Afghanistan. Pakistan has captured and handed over to the United States numerous al Qaeda members, including September 11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Osama bin Laden is believed to be hiding somewhere along the lawless Afghan border.
By Robert Birsel
(Reuters) – A U.S. drone fired two missiles on Thursday at a compound in northwest Pakistan where Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud was believed to have been, but it was not clear if he was among 12 militants killed, Pakistani officials said.
The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency operates the missile-firing Predator and Reaper drones. Here are some questions and answers about the strikes: