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16 June 2009 

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Indian, Pakistani Leaders Hold First Meeting Since Mumbai Attacks 

16 June 2009
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, left, and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, right, in Yekaterinburg, 16 Jun 2009
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, left, and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, right, in Yekaterinburg, 16 Jun 2009
The leaders of India and Pakistan have met for the first time since last year's terror attacks in Mumbai, which led to a sharp deterioration in relations between the two countries. The meeting, which took place on the sidelines of a regional summit in Russia, has paved the way for further meetings between the two countries.

After a cordial handshake with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh immediately went on to reiterate New Delhi's main concern. He told the Pakistani leader that he is happy to meet him, but Pakistani soil must not be used for terrorism against India.

The two leaders met in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg, which is hosting a summit of a regional security body, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.  

Officials said more meetings are expected in the coming weeks between the two countries.

The foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan are to meet to discuss terrorism. That will be followed by another meeting between Mr. Singh and Mr. Zardari in mid-July in Egypt, where the two leaders are scheduled to attend the Non-Aligned Summit.

Indian Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon said terrorism will top the agenda.

"The foreign secretaries will discuss what Pakistan is doing, what it can do, and we will also tell them what we think and we will then take stock of the situation again," he said.

Political commentators are optimistic these meetings could signal an easing of tensions between the South Asian rivals. India suspended a five-year peace dialogue with Pakistan following the terror attacks in Mumbai. India blamed the attacks on Muslim militants based in Pakistan. Islamabad later said the attacks were partly plotted on its soil.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi (File)
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi (File)
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi signaled that Islamabad would like to see both countries return to the negotiating table.

"I think the most sensible thing would be to resume the dialogue as soon as possible. It is in our mutual interest to do so," he said.

Foreign minister Qureshi described Tuesday's meeting between the two leaders as a "positive development."

India has been saying that it is willing to mend fences - but only if Islamabad takes tougher action against terror groups. New Delhi accuses Pakistan of not doing enough to bring those who planned the Mumbai attacks to justice.  

India is particularly unhappy about a Pakistani court's release of the man suspected of masterminding the Mumbai attacks, Hafiz Mohammad Saeed.  

Washington wants the two countries to resume talks and improve relations so the Pakistani army can focus on fighting Taliban militants.

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