ISLAMABAD—Pakistan and India are poised to resume peace talks, a move with potential to reduce tension between the two nuclear- armed neighbors and promote normalization of ties, Indian and Pakistani officials said on Sunday.
On-again, off-again talks between the two rivals stalled earlier this year amid a spate of violence in the disputed territory of Kashmir.
In January, India alleged two of its soldiers were killed during an incursion by Pakistani forces, abruptly ending the normalization process.
“Now it’s time to pick up the pieces and get on with life,”said Aizaz Chaudhry, spokesman for Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “The resumption of the peace process would be a big thing.”
Talks could lead to prime ministers of both nations meeting in September in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, diplomats said.
“Some contacts are being made by both sides to see how it [peace talks]can happen, but so far, there’s nothing formal,” said Mr. Chaudhry.
“We do hope it would happen soon, because that’s what the leadership of the two countries want.”
Indian officials said there were no political objections to resuming the dialogue, which likely would be in August and September.
Pakistan and India have been at war three times, and the two countries have a history of fragile talks yielding little in the way of substantial progress.
But Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who took office in early June, has stated that he would like to open a new chapter in relations with India.
His last term, in the late 1990s, saw him try to push forward a major peace initiative.
Diplomatic contacts between the countries have stepped up. In May, after the Pakistani elections, S.K. Lambah traveled to Pakistan to meet Mr. Sharif, as Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s special envoy. Earlier this month, Mr. Sharif sent his representative, Shaharyar Khan, to meet Mr. Singh in India.
Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid has also met Sartaj Aziz, Mr. Sharif’s foreign relations adviser.
Diplomats said dialogue would initially focus on two narrow issues. One is about water access and the other is a dispute over Sir Creek, a 60-mile strip of disputed marshland between India and Pakistan.
“Backchannels are already under way,” a diplomat with knowledge of the process said. “Before the two prime ministers meet, other things have to be in place. The water issue and Sir Creek would have to happen first.”
Talks over less contentious issues such as trade and visa restrictions could clear the way to tackle the major source of conflict: the territory of Kashmir that was split between the two countries after a war in 1947.
India and Pakistan both claim the whole of Kashmir.
On Saturday, Pakistan said one soldier was killed and another wounded after Indian troops allegedly opened fire across the disputed frontier in Kashmir. But India accused Pakistan of sponsoring jihadi extremists in that attack.
Hasan Askari Rizvi, an analyst based in Lahore, Pakistan, expressed skepticism about prospects for dramatic or immediate breakthroughs in any negotiations. “There will be nothing substantial produced quickly from talks.”
For talks to succeed, both countries will have to overcome years of mutual distrust. India is still reeling from the 2008 terrorist assault in Mumbai, which killed over 160 people when a squad of 10 trained militants from Pakistani jihadi group Lashkar-e-Taiba stormed the city.
Pakistan alleges India aids separatist rebels in its western province of Balochistan and fears India could cut off its rivers at source, turning the country into a desert.
Improved relations could also benefit the situation in Afghanistan, a stage for strategic competition between India and Pakistan over several decades.