But on Feb. 13, a day after the date for new talks was announced, a bomb ripped through a cafe in Pune, in the southern state of Maharashtra, killing 16 people. Indian authorities are investigating whether the attack was organized by Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the Pakistani militant group held responsible for the Mumbai carnage, but no firm link has yet been verified.
The blast in Pune made India ever keener to put terrorism top of the agenda Thursday and in any subsequent talks. In particular, India wants to focus on its demands for Pakistan to crack down on militant groups including LeT.
“I think Pakistan has to show it is coming out of denial mode about terrorism,” says Ajit Doval, the former director of the Intelligence Bureau of India. “It sends a very negative signal if it does not put a proper ban on LeT. We cannot move ahead until it takes serious action on terrorist groups that are targeting India. If it does that, let’s go ahead.”
Thursday’s meeting was more about symbolism than substance – at best, say analysts, it may lead to a resumption of the formal “composite dialogue” peace process started in 2004. Though on Thursday neither side gave a date for their next meeting.
Over the past year, the two countries have been holding backchannel talks to this end, encouraged by the United States and other Western governments, which see the dialogue as an important cornerstone for a stable Afghanistan. While Pakistan’s disputes with India continue to boil, its army is considered likely to maintain links with militants there.