- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 20, 2006

In the wake of the bomb blasts in India last week, hopes for resuming suspended peace talks with Pakistan remain uncertain, Indian and Pakistani officials said yesterday.

Muhammad Ijaz Ul Haq, federal minister of Pakistan, said in an interview, “I don’t believe Pakistan had anything to do with the bombings in India. India needs to take care of the problems in its own back yard. India always blames Pakistan for its internal problems.”

The July 11 bombing attacks on commuter trains in the Indian hub of Bombay killed about 180 people.

Mr. Haq said he did not want the attacks to derail negotiations over the disputed region of Kashmir, to which both countries have claimed rights.

Peace talks between the two governments to resolve the dispute over Kashmir started in 2004, and were planned to resume this month.

Salman Haidar, former foreign secretary of India, said the Indian government had been cautious not to directly blame Pakistan for the attacks. However, he added that Pakistan needed to do more to regain India’s full trust.

“We know that the [terrorist] groups that are active have bases in Pakistan. We need something more substantial from their side. Show us that these bases and camps are being dismantled,” he said.

Mr. Haq said Pakistan did not need to prove its commitment to fighting terrorists.

“We are the front line on the war on terror for President Bush. It is clear that we don’t support terrorists. We’ve been very flexible. It’s time for India to make some proposals,” he said.

Yasin Malik, chairman of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, a nationalist group seeking liberation of Kashmir from Pakistan and India, said the postponement of the talks worried many people in Kashmir.

“I have said that I condemn the bomb blasts and my sympathy is with the victims. I met with [Indian] Prime Minister [Manmohan] Singh and [Pakistani] President [Pervez] Musharraf to show good faith and encourage them to continue negotiations,” he said.

Some officials worry that a breakdown in the peace process could renew old bitterness and tensions.

Mr. Haidar, however, said there was no reason for alarmist rhetoric.

“The peace process has not broken down. It is just paused. The door is not completely slammed shut. You have a big event like this and old doubts and suspicions are stirred up. This has a very negative impact,” he said.

Yusuf Buch, former senior adviser to the U.N. secretary-general, said the bombing attacks in India could present an opportunity for unity between the longtime military rivals, which have gone to war three times.

“There is so much crime afoot there. This should have the opposite effect by reminding India and Pakistan both of the dangers they still face,” he said.

Gen. Musharraf made a speech this week urging India to resume the talks, saying that allowing them to break down would “play into the hands of the terrorists” by rewarding their acts.

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