NEW DELHI — India’s and Pakistan’s leaders will meet for the first time in more than a year as deadly attacks last month in a disputed border region overshadow attempts to improve ties between the nuclear-armed neighbors.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will hold talks with leaders from neighboring countries including Pakistan while attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York, according to a statement from his office. Five Indian soldiers and three Pakistani troops were killed in fighting last month in Kashmir, which the countries have fought over for six decades.
The talks will be the first between the countries since Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif took power in June and promised to improve ties with India. In the first seven months of this year, the number of cease-fire violations along the Line of Control that separates the countries increased 80 percent from the same period last year to 57, Defense Minister A.K. Antony told parliament last month.
“This is again a reflection of Singh’s personal and political commitment to stabilizing relations with Pakistan, notwithstanding various turbulences such as the border attacks,” said C. Uday Bhaskar, a New Delhi-based analyst at the National Maritime Foundation, a research group. While no major breakthroughs are expected, it will be a valuable opportunity to take forward relations, he said.
Pakistan needs to prevent militants from using its territory as a base to attack India for relations between the countries to improve, Singh said in a speech last month. Pakistan denied that its troops crossed the de facto frontier last month and accused the leadership in New Delhi of engaging in propaganda.
Singh will probably ask his counterpart what steps Pakistan is taking to stop attacks on India and prosecute those responsible for the Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people in 2008, Bhaskar said. The countries may also discuss improving trade ties, border disputes and regional security after the U.S. troop reduction in Afghanistan next year, he said.
The two countries resumed peace talks two years ago, after they were halted following the 2008 attack by Pakistani militants on a Mumbai railway station and luxury hotels. India says the strike was carried out by the Lashkar-e-Taiba guerrilla group with support from some members of Pakistan’s security establishment.
Pakistan, which denies the charge of state involvement, has begun a closed trial of some Lashkar members. India has called for more action.
The two countries have eased visa restrictions and taken steps to increase cross-border commerce in an effort to establish trust between the nations.
Singh held a brief meeting with former Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari in April last year, the last time leaders of the two countries held one-on-one talks. In March, then Pakistan Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf met with India Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid for lunch during a private visit to India to see a Sufi Muslim shrine.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars since achieving independence from British rule in 1947. Two of the wars have been over Kashmir, a region that is divided between them and claimed in full by both.