US praises plans for Pakistan-India talks

The United States on Thursday praised plans for rare talks between Pakistan and India as it sought to diffuse any new strains in relations caused by a US reward for Hafiz Saeed.

President Asif Ali Zardari plans on Sunday to be the first Pakistani head of state to visit the arch-rival since 2005.

“To us, it’s a win-win situation when Pakistan and India are engaging in dialogue, are talking to each other and are building better cooperation,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters.

Soon after Pakistan announced the trip Monday, the United States posted a $10 million reward on Hafiz Saeed who is accused of masterminding the bloody 2008 siege of Mumbai that nearly triggered war between Pakistan and India.

Toner said that the reward for Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed was the result of a “long process” by security officials in the State Department and had “no relation” to US diplomacy in South Asia.

“We certainly don’t want it to impact on his visit to India,” Toner said of Zardari’s trip.

“We’re not playing some sort of strategic game here. We’re just trying to prosecute this individual,” he said.

Saeed openly mocked the United States over the reward, calling a news conference in Rawalpindi and daring Washington to come after him.

The United States has said that it is not offering the reward for his capture but for information that will lead to his prosecution in court.