By Arun Kumar
Washington, Feb 26 (IANS) The United States which has been "encouraging" India and Pakistan to resume their dialogue sought to downplay the failure of their secretary-level talks saying it was a "courageous step" just to open the door to dialogue again.
"As we have long encouraged the restoration of dialogue, it is an important step for Pakistan and India, and we commend the political leadership in both countries," State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters Thursday.
"I think it's the highest-level meeting between India and Pakistan since the tragedy in Mumbai," he said when asked to comment on the talks in New Delhi that ended without a breakthrough with the two sides sticking to their sharply differing agendas.
"And we certainly hope that both countries will build on this dialogue in the weeks and months ahead."
When reminded that nothing came out of the New Delhi talks, Crowley alluded to the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks and said what was "important here" was that the meeting was held "given that there were some events recently where some elements were trying to derail the prospect of this meeting."
"...because they recognize that this has been beneficial to both countries in the past, it was a courageous step to open the door to dialogue again."
"And we certainly commend the leadership of political courage and making sure that the meeting takes place. Now, the challenge is to build on this going forward," Crowley said.
On the eve of the talks, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a Senate panel that the US "encouraged the resumption of the direct talks" between India and Pakistan at the highest political level. At the same time, she made it clear that it was for the two nations to resolve their differences themselves.
"We are sensitive to the concerns that they each have, that it's their issues that they have to address," Clinton said. "But we continue to raise it and make the case to each separately as to why it's in their mutual interest to proceed."