Pakistani, Indian top diplomats to meet in August

ISLAMABAD (AFP) - The foreign secretaries of Pakistan and India are set to meet in Islamabad next month in the neighbouring countries' latest attempt at improving ties.

The proposed meeting, announced by Pakistan's foreign office on Wednesday, comes after Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif held talks with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in New Delhi following the Hindu hardliner's inauguration in May.

"Indian foreign secretary Sujatha Singh spoke to her Pakistani counterpart Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry over the telephone this afternoon and... it was agreed that the two foreign secretaries would meet in Islamabad on August 25 to carry forward the dialogue process," the ministry said in a statement.

"In keeping with the vision of the two Prime Ministers to improve and establish good neighbourly relations, the foreign secretaries agreed that the dialogue process between the two countries should be result-oriented," it added.

Bilateral relations broke down after attacks by Pakistani gunmen on India's commercial hub Mumbai in 2008, in which 166 people were killed, though relations have recovered slightly since then.

An unresolved territorial dispute over Kashmir in the Himalayan region is also a source of ongoing tension, while Pakistan accuses India of fomenting a separatist insurgency in its southwestern province of Baluchistan.

Trade between the two countries is presently around US$2.5 billion (S$3.13 billion), with Indian exports accounting for the majority.

Pakistani business leaders believe greater trade would be a major boon to their stuttering economy - though according to reports the all-powerful military is against such a move.

The nuclear-armed neighbours have fought three wars since their independence from Britain in 1947, as well as a smaller conflict in 1999 when Modi's party was last in office at the national level and Sharif was in power during a previous stint as premier.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.