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India, Pakistan agree to new peace talks

The leaders of India and Pakistan met Thursday and agreed to the resumption of peace talks, signalling a thawing in the relationship between the two countries.

The leaders of India and Pakistan met Thursday and agreed to the resumption of peace talks, signalling a thawing in a relationship that has been tense since the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, right, walks behind Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh before a meeting on the sidelines of the 16th South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation Summit in Thimphu, Bhutan, on Thursday. ((Associated Press))

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani met for more than an hour in the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. It was their first meeting in eight months, and came on the sidelines of a South Asian leaders summit.

The two men agreed their foreign ministers should meet to discuss the resumption of formal talks.

Singh and Gilani "agreed that relations between the two countries should be normalized and the channels of contact should work effectively to enlarge the constituency of peace in both countries," said Indian Foreign secretary Nirupama Rao.

"I don't think that either side was expecting such a positive turn in dialogue," said Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Pakistan's foreign minister.

India and Pakistan started formal talks on a wide range of issues back in 2004, but those talks were suspended following the Mumbai attack that left 166 people dead. India blamed the attack on Pakistani militants.

Rao said the two foreign ministers have been charged with "thinking afresh and working out ways to restore trust and confidence in the relationship."

A date has not been set for a meeting of the foreign ministers.

The two countries had been under pressure to restart their suspended formal talks, even though they did little to resolve the decades-old key issue of control of the Kashmir region, which is claimed by both countries. They have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir since they gained independence.

With files from The Associated Press