India's foreign secretary said Friday that her country remains concerned about the threat of terrorism, but is committed to peace talks with Pakistan that have stumbled since the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai.
Nirupama Rao's comments capped two days of meetings in Islamabad between delegations from the nuclear-armed archrivals _ the first formal talks between the neighbors on the disputed region of Kashmir since the attacks in the Indian financial hub.
Both nations claim Kashmir in its entirety, and have fought two of their three wars over the region since they gained independence from Britain in 1947.
The siege of Mumbai killed 166 people and has been blamed on Pakistani militants belonging to Lashkar-e-Taiba, a group Pakistan's spy agencies are suspected of nurturing as a proxy fighting force in Kashmir. Pakistan has denied any state institutions played a role in the attack on Mumbai.
"We must do away with the shadow of the gun and extremist violence because it's only in the atmosphere free of terror and violence that we can discuss the resolution of such a complex issue" as Kashmir, Rao said during a press conference with her Pakistani counterpart, Salman Bashir.
Pakistan has nudged India to push ahead with talks even as it has struggled to stem the growth of the Taliban and other militants who have proliferated on its soil since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. Bashir said the issue of terrorism "requires objectivity, requires to be addressed in a collaborative approach."
Bashir and Rao's meetings were aimed in part at laying the groundwork for ministerial level meetings in the next few weeks.
A joint statement issued after the sessions Friday said the two countries would keep discussing a range of subjects, including confidence building measures involving their nuclear programs and trade across the border that divides each side's current section of Kashmir.
Last month, Indian and Pakistani officials met in the Indian capital and agreed to continue working to reduce tension on a glacier battlefield in the Himalayas where grueling conditions have killed more troops than hostile fire.
The home secretaries from both sides met in New Delhi in March and agreed to set up a terrorism hotline and to cooperate on the Mumbai attack investigation _ a major step in placating India's concerns. The secretaries for commerce also met in April.
Associated Press Writer Munir Ahmed contributed to this report.