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Pakistan urges new India dialogue

Indian soldier on border
India has denied significantly bolstering troops along the border

Pakistan has again called for an easing of tension with India in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks, saying dialogue would benefit both sides.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi also urged India to move some troops and air bases away from joint border areas to send a "positive signal".

India blames Pakistan-based militants for the attacks in Mumbai that left more than 170 people dead.

Delhi has denied making any significant troop movements towards the border.

'Vindicated'

Mr Qureshi said: "Dialogue is in the interest of both the countries - we should sit across the table and also use diplomatic channels."

He said Pakistan was making "two specific proposals" - that India de-activate its forward air bases and relocate its ground forces to "peacetime positions".

Shah Mehmood Qureshi
Pressure and coercion between neighbours tend to complicate matters - rather than resolve them - and should be avoided
Shah Mehmood Qureshi

Mr Qureshi said: "This will send a positive signal and reduce tensions in the region."

He said that Pakistan was ready to co-operate with India in tracking down the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks.

Indian officials have blamed a Pakistan-based militant group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, for the attacks. But both it and the Pakistani government deny any involvement.

Mr Qureshi said that Pakistan had already banned the group and arrested some of its leaders. He said that Islamabad would help track down the attackers once India shared evidence.

"Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee's statement that evidence will be shared with us once they have concluded their own investigation vindicates our earlier stand that we haven't yet been provided with any evidence," Mr Qureshi said.

He described Mr Mukherjee's statement as a "positive development" and said recent telephone contacts between the two countries would "help defuse the situation".

Indian troops at border near Bikaner
Pakistan says that negotiations are also key to reducing border tension

"If India de-activates its forward airbases which it recently activated, we will consider this a positive signal," he said.

"Second, Indian ground forces that moved forward (following the Mumbai attacks) should be relocated to peace positions.

"Pressure and coercion between neighbours tend to complicate matters - rather than resolve them - and should be avoided.

Mr Mukherjee said India had done nothing to escalate tension.

"[This] is not an India-Pakistan issue. This is an attack perpetrated by elements emanating from the land of Pakistan and the Pakistan government should take action against it."

India has denied any significant bolstering of troops on the border and reiterated that evidence of Lashkar-e-Taiba's involvement had been passed on to the Pakistani government.

An Indian military source told AFP news agency Delhi had not activated its forward air bases.

India has declared a "pause" in its peace process with Pakistan in the wake of the attacks.

The Pakistani cabinet is later on Tuesday to consider an alleged confession by Mohammed Ajmal Amir Qasab, the only surviving Mumbai attacker, which was passed on by Delhi.



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