US praises India, Pakistan talks
Amid militant feud:
US: The United States on Thursday praised plans for rare talks
between India and Pakistan as it sought to diffuse any new strains in
relations caused by a US reward for a top Pakistan-based extremist.
President Asif Ali Zardari plans on Sunday to be the first Pakistani
head of state to visit the arch-rival since 2005. Pakistan said he will
have lunch with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the one-day pilgrimage
to an Islamic shrine.
"To us, it's a win-win situation when Pakistan and India are engaging
in dialogue, are talking to each other and are building better
cooperation," State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters.
Soon after Pakistan announced the trip Monday, the United States
posted a $10 million reward for a Pakistani militant wanted over the
bloody 2008 siege of Mumbai that nearly triggered war between India and
US Deputy Secretary of State Tom Nides was also visiting Pakistan in
a bid to relaunch a war partnership after months of friction over the US
raid that killed Osama bin Laden and NATO airstrikes that killed 24
Toner said that the reward for Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed
was the result of a "long process" by security officials in the State
Department and had "no relation" to US diplomacy in South Asia.
"We certainly don't want it to impact on his visit to India," Toner
said of Zardari's trip.
"We're not playing some sort of strategic game here. We're just
trying to prosecute this individual," he said.
Saeed openly mocked the United States over the reward, calling a news
conference in Rawalpindi near Pakistan's military headquarters and
daring Washington to come after him.
The United States has said that it is not offering the reward for his
capture but for information that will lead to his prosecution in court.
Heavily armed Islamist gunmen attacked luxury hotels, a Jewish center
and a train station in the November 2008 assault of Mumbai, killing 166
people including six Americans.
Toner also pointed to Lashkar-e-Taiba's claims of responsibility in
other incidents including the 2010 assault on hotels in Kabul and the
2001 attack on the Indian parliament that also set off a crisis between
India and Pakistan.
India and Pakistan, which both have nuclear weapons, have fought
three full-fledged wars since their separation at independence in 1947.