October 23, 2015 / 3:21 PM / in 2 years

India welcomes Pakistan pledge to fight militants, but still talks tough

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India on Friday welcomed a joint pledge by the United States and Pakistan to fight militant groups it suspects of attacking Indian targets, but ruled out any third-party mediation to end a long-running dispute over Kashmir.

U.S. President Barack Obama meets Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington October 22, 2015. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Although the Indian foreign ministry accused Pakistan of state-sponsored terrorism, New Delhi’s tough rhetoric did not preclude the possible resumption of peace talks that were derailed by recent tensions.

“India has always desired resolution of all issues with Pakistan bilaterally through dialogue and peaceful means,” Vikas Swarup, spokesman for India’s Ministry of External Affairs, told a news briefing in New Delhi.

“It is Pakistan who has chosen to use terrorism as an instrument of state policy. And this visit shows that the international community is deeply concerned about its support to, and sponsorship of, terrorism.”

At talks in Washington on Thursday, U.S. President Barack Obama and Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif pledged “to promote peace and stability throughout the region and to counter all forms of extremism and terrorism.”

For the first time, Pakistan committed to take “effective action” against Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), an Islamic militant group based in Pakistan that India blames for an attack by suicide commandos on Mumbai in 2008 in which 166 people died.

The joint statement also named, among other groups, the Haqqani Network that Indian and U.S. intelligence believe was responsible for an attack on its embassy in the Afghan capital Kabul in the same year.

“This is the first time that Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Haqqani Network have been specifically mentioned in a U.S-Pakistan joint statement,” said Swarup. “We would naturally hope that they deliver on these commitments.”An agreement to revive peace talks between the nuclear-armed neighbors - who have fought two of their three wars since independence over Kashmir - was reached between Sharif and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Russia in July.

But escalating tensions over Kashmir, which both countries claim in full but rule only in part, derailed plans for the national security advisers of both countries to hold talks on containing terrorism.

Just before traveling to the United States, Sharif named a former general as his new national security adviser. Reacting, Swarup said that India “remains open” to holding talks between the two countries’ national security advisers.

Reporting by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Ruth Pitchford

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