- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 22, 2008

NEW DELHI (AP) | A top Indian diplomat blamed Pakistan on Monday for the bombing of India‘s embassy in Afghanistan, saying the attack had put the rivals’ peace process “under stress.”

“All our information points to elements of Pakistan being behind the blast,” Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon told reporters following talks with his Pakistani counterpart in New Delhi.

He did not detail what information pointed to a Pakistani role in the July 7 bombing in Kabul. But his comments came weeks after Afghan President Hamid Karzai hinted that Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, was responsible for the bombing, which killed at least 58 people, including an Indian diplomat and the military attache at the embassy.

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry offered no immediate comment, but Pakistan has repeatedly denied any involvement in the attack, insisting it wants stability in the region and good relations with India.

Predominantly Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan have fought three wars since they were created in the bloody partition of the Indian subcontinent at independence from Britain in 1947.

Relations have improved considerably since the start of a peace process in 2004. But progress at the talks has been slow and deep distrust remains between the nuclear-armed neighbors, with New Delhi regularly blaming Islamabad for bombings and shootings that have plagued India in recent years.

“The dialogue process is under stress,” Mr. Menon said. But India nonetheless considers it “important that the dialogue continue in order to address our concerns.”

Monday’s meeting with Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir was “particularly important because it happens at a difficult time in our relations with Pakistan,” Mr. Menon added.

Apart from the Kabul bombing, relations between India and Pakistan also have been strained in recent months by repeated exchanges of gunfire across the frontier in Kashmir, a predominantly Muslim region split between the two and claimed entirely by both.

The region has been the focus of two of the countries’ three wars, although the frontier had been largely quiet since a truce was declared in late 2003.

But the recent shootings have led to a familiar round of accusations, with Pakistan blaming India for violating the cease-fire and New Delhi accusing Islamabad of helping Islamic rebels sneak into its part of Kashmir.

Nearly a dozen Islamic rebel groups have been fighting since 1989 for Kashmir’s independence from India or its merger with Pakistan. More than 68,000 people, most of them civilians, have been killed in the conflict, and India routinely accuses Pakistan of assisting the insurgents, a charge Islamabad denies.

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