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By Augustine Anthony
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Questions raised by India's prime minister about the control of the Pakistani army and Pakistan's aims in Afghanistan are an excuse for delaying the resumption of talks, Pakistan's foreign minister said on Monday.
India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told CNN International television on Sunday he was not clear if Pakistan's president was in control of the army and that Pakistan's objectives in Afghanistan were not necessarily those of the United States.
In the interview coinciding with a U.S. visit, Singh also said he was worried about Pakistan's nuclear arsenal falling into the wrong hands and complained that Islamabad had not brought to justice perpetrators of last year's Mumbai attack.
"I am disappointed," Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told Reuters. "My feeling is India is dragging its feet and is looking for excuses to not resume the composite dialogue."
The nuclear-armed neighbours have fought three wars since 1947 and nearly went to war a fourth time in 2002, after a militant attack on India's parliament.
The United States wants the rivals to reduce tension and resume dialogue on a range of issues from trade to the disputed Kashmir region so Pakistan can focus on the war against the Taliban and al Qaeda on its Afghan border.
India suspended a five-year-old peace process that included broad talks known as the composite dialogue with its neighbour after the Mumbai attacks in November last year.
India blamed the attack on Pakistan-based militants it said were supported by state agencies. Pakistan condemned the assault on India's financial capital in which 166 people were killed and denied any official involvement.
Indian and Pakistani leaders and senior officials have met several times on the sidelines of international gatherings over the past year but India insists Pakistan must take forceful action against militants before talks are resumed.
INDIAN CONCERNS
Pakistan has acknowledged that the Mumbai assault was plotted and partly launched from its soil and is prosecuting seven suspects in a closed-door hearing.
Qureshi said that showed Pakistan's seriousness in dealing with those behind the Mumbai attack.
Qureshi also rejected Singh's doubts about Pakistan's objectives in Afghanistan, saying the world recognised Pakistan's resolve in fighting militancy and its sacrifices.
The Pakistani army went on a long-awaited offensive on October 17 against Pakistani Taliban in South Waziristan near the Afghan border.
The United States, weighing options for how to stem an intensifying insurgency in Afghanistan, has welcomed the offensive but is keen to see Pakistan tackle Afghan Taliban factions in lawless border enclaves.
Referring to Singh's question about who was in charge of the Pakistani army, Qureshi said: "These statements do not help and this is not in line with reality."
Qureshi also dismissed Singh's remark about the safety of Pakistan's nuclear weapons.
The United States and India share security concerns centred around Afghanistan, but India fears U.S. policy panders to Pakistan, Indian analysts say.
India is uneasy that U.S. strategy fails to reflect its concern about what India sees as Pakistan's backing of militants launching attacks in both India and in Afghanistan, analysts and government officials say.
"Singh's comments are a reiteration of fears of any U.S. policy for the region that leaves out Indian concerns," said Christopher Raj, professor of international affairs at New Delhi-based Jawaharlal Nehru University.
"India wants more regional involvement in stabilising Afghanistan to neutralise Pakistan's claim that Afghanistan is their backyard."
(Additional reporting by Krittivas Mukherjee in NEW DELHI; Edited by Robert Birsel)

Reuters