India hints at restarting peace talks with new Pakistan govt

NEW DELHI (AFP) - India hinted on Thursday at restarting peace talks with rival and neighbour Pakistan that stalled over clashes earlier this year in the disputed region of Kashmir.

Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh said India would be "picking up the threads" of peace talks with the new Pakistani government led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, which was elected in May.

"There is a new government in Pakistan now. We will be picking up the threads from where we left off with the old government," Ms Singh told reporters in New Delhi on her first day in the job.

However, she said that any dialogue with Islamabad "presupposes an environment free of violence and of terror".

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since independence from British rule in 1947 and relations have historically been strained.

New Delhi broke off peace talks with Islamabad after gunmen killed 166 people in Mumbai in 2008, which India blamed on Pakistani militants. Talks resumed in 2011 with two rounds that focused largely on trade and visas.

But relations soured again in January and February this year after six soldiers in total from both sides were killed in exchanges along the de facto border with Kashmir, a region claimed by both countries.

India alleged that Pakistani troops beheaded one of its soldiers, a claim Pakistan denied.

Mr Sharif has called for closer rapprochement with India since winning the general elections.

Tension however spiked between the nuclear armed nations in recent months with both sides protesting the deaths of prisoners held by the other.

Last week, Pakistan said Indian troops had killed a soldier in an "unprovoked" attack in Kashmir while the Indian army said it had fired in a "calibrated manner" in response to Pakistani firing.

Despite the skirmishes, analysts on both sides of the border have been hoping that Mr Sharif's return to power will herald an improvement in ties.