The talks between S.M. Krishna of India and Shah Mehmood Qureshi of Pakistan are widely seen as the first step in trying to revive a peace process broken off in the wake of the attacks on India’s financial capital.
Here are some of the main issues between the neighbors:
For India, security is the top issue. It has refused to resume a series of talks known as the composite dialogue until Pakistan takes more action against Pakistan-based militant groups.
In particular, India wants Pakistan to show it is serious in reining in the militants behind the Mumbai attacks, in which 166 people were killed.
This is complicated by Indian suspicions that the Pakistan security establishment backed the militants in some way. On the eve of the talks, Indian Home Secretary G.K. Pillai escalated the charges and directly blamed Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency for the attacks.
“It was not just a peripheral role,” he was quoted as saying by the Indian Express newspaper. “They were literally controlling and coordinating it from the beginning till the end.”
For its part, Pakistan accuses India of backing separatists in its Baluchistan province and providing weapons and funding to Pakistan Taliban groups, charges India denies.
The divided, mostly Muslim Himalayan region of Kashmir is at the heart of hostility between the neighbors and was the cause of two of their three wars since independence from Britain in 1947. The third was over the founding of Bangladesh.
Separatists began an insurgency against Indian rule in 1989 — a movement almost immediately backed by Pakistan — and since then tens of thousands of people have been killed. Most fighters want all of Kashmir to become part of Pakistan but many ordinary Kashmiris want independence from both India and Pakistan.
Krishna and Qureshi will have to sidestep another danger — getting bogged down in a blame game over ongoing anti-government protests in a part of Kashmir held by India.
Violent anti-government protests have swept India-controlled Kashmir for almost a month. The region is under an army lockdown.
The two countries disagree over use of the water flowing down rivers that rise in Indian Kashmir and run into the Indus river basin in Pakistan.
The use of the water is governed by the 1960 Indus Water Treaty under which India was granted the use of water from three eastern rivers, and Pakistan the use of three western rivers.
Pakistan says India is unfairly diverting water with the upstream construction of barrages and dams. India denies the charge.
Indian and Pakistani forces have faced off against each other in mountains above the Siachen glacier in the Karakoram range, the world’s highest battlefield, since 1984.
The two sides have been trying to find a solution that would allow them to withdraw troops, but India says it is unwilling to bring its forces down until Pakistan officially authenticates the positions they hold.
Pakistan has said it is willing to do so but on the condition that it is not a final endorsement of India’s claim over the glacier, a source of meltwater for Pakistan’s rivers.
Afghanistan has become a major source of friction, although Indian and Pakistani differences over Pakistan’s western neighbor have not been a part of their official talks.
The two countries have long competed for influence there and Pakistan is deeply suspicious of a rise in India’s presence after the fall of the Islamabad-backed Taliban government in 2001.
It accuses India of using Afghanistan as a base to create problems inside Pakistan, including backing separatists in its Baluchistan province. India denies the accusations, saying its focus is on development.
This rivalry is complicating U.S.-led efforts to end an intensifying Taliban insurgency and bring stability to Afghanistan more than eight years after the Taliban were ousted.
(Compiled by Chris Allbritton and Zeeshan Haider in Islamabad; Editing by Sugita Katyal)