Conflict & Justice

Nuclear rivals India, Pakistan promise warmer ties after rare meeting


Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh during a meeting in New Delhi on July 27, 2011 as India and Pakistan hold rare talks.


Prakash Singh

Nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan held their first talks in a year on Wednesday, with both sides hailing a "new chapter" in their fraught relationship.

Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna and his Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar agreed to work more closely against terrorism and to improve business and travel across the disputed border in Kashmir, AP reported.

"This is indeed a new era of bilateral cooperation between the two countries," Khar said after the meeting in New Delhi.

"There has been a mindset change in the people of the two countries that we must acknowledge."

Krishna said the path ahead would not be easy but "relations are on the right track."

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since Pakistan was cleaved from India at partition in 1947, two of them over the divided Himalayan territory of Kashmir.

New Delhi accuses Islamabad of supporting Islamist militants seeking independence for Muslim-majority Kashmir, and of backing terrorists such as those behind the 2008 attacks on the Indian city of Mumbai.

India suspended contacts with Pakistan after that attack, which dramatically raised tensions between South Asia's nuclear neighbors.

"We have some distance to travel, but with an open mind and a constructive approach ... I am sure we can reach our desired destination of having a friendly and cooperative relationship," Krishna said, according to AFP.

"A new generation of Indians and Pakistanis will see a relationship that will hopefully be much different from the one that has been experienced in the last two decades."

Khar is Pakistan's first female foreign minister, although the Islamic republic has been led by a woman in the form of two-time president Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in 2007.

At just 34 years of age, some had questioned whether she was experienced enough to handle one of the world's most fraught cross-border relationships, according to AFP. Krishna, 79, is 45 years her senior.

The Pakistani minister met with Kashmiri separatist chiefs as soon as she arrived in New Delhi on Tuesday, to the dismay of some of her Indian hosts.

But her good looks and bright smile helped to soften her critics.

"Pak Puts On Its Best Face," wrote The Times of India.

(Read more on GP blogs: Pakistan's "photogenic" young foreign minister bowls over India)