Quite in contrast to the cordiality that marked the Pakistan-India foreign secretaries’ talks one day ago, the interior ministers of the two countries found it difficult to move towards a breakthrough on counter-terrorism cooperation as they opened their talks on Friday. The two ministers are likely to meet again on Saturday. Indian Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram, who is the first minister from Delhi to visit Pakistan since the 2008 Mumbai attacks, met his Pakistani counterpart, Rehman Malik, for talks on terrorism, a subject which stopped the normalisation of relations after the terror strikes. Their meeting was preceded by the interior secretaries’ meeting earlier in the day for setting an agenda of the talks. The outcome of the foreign secretaries’ and the interior ministers’ parleys is certain to set the tone for a meeting between the two foreign ministers next month. That dialogue is likely to lay out a strategy for overcoming the trust deficit between Islamabad and New Delhi. The foreign secretaries had agreed on Thursday on the need for jointly dealing with terrorism, but had left it to the interior ministers to work out the nitty gritty. There was no official word from either side after the meeting, but sources privy to the discussions warned against expecting any ‘dramatic development or grand gestures’. Indications were that the two leaders might settle for an incremental progress beginning with small-scale confidence-building measures like release of detained fishermen, reactivation of the judicial commission on prisoners, return of confiscated boats and simplifying procedures for dealing with inadvertent border crossings and violations of maritime boundaries by fishermen. During his talks with the interior minister, Mr Chidambaram expressed dissatisfaction over the trial of the alleged perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks and said his government felt that Pakistan was not pursuing the prosecution wholeheartedly. Mr Malik asked India to respect Pakistani courts’ decisions in the Mumbai attacks case just as it honoured an Indian court’s verdict in the trial of Ajmal Kasab, a source said. Mr Chidambaram shared the findings of interrogation of Lashkar-i-Taiba operative David Headley by an Indian team in the US. Some of the findings were earlier shared in the latest dossier given by India to Pakistan a few days back. He also took up accusations of an increase in infiltration into held Kashmir from the Pakistani side.

The Indian side was of the view that Pakistan had not taken the action required against Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed, the alleged mastermind of the Nov 26, 2008, attacks. Mr Malik said as no credible evidence had been found to substantiate the allegations, the court could not take any action against him. He said Pakistan had asked the Indian government to hand over the principal accused, but the plea was turned down in the light of a court decision. “We honoured the Indian court’s decision in that case.” Mr Chidambaram asked Pakistani authorities to hold a speedy trial of those accused of planning the attacks. Mr Malik reiterated allegations of Indian sponsorship of sabotage activities in Pakistan, particularly in Balochistan and the tribal areas. Mr Chidambaram later called on Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi. “The two ministers expressed the desire for developing friendly, cooperative and good-neighbourly relations between the two countries. The need for a sustained and comprehensive dialogue to build trust and confidence was emphasised,” the Foreign Office spokesman said after the meeting. The Indian minister is also likely to meet President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. SAARC CONFERENCE: Mr Chidambaram will represent India at a meeting of the home ministers of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) on Saturday. On the third day of the regional conference, member countries expressed their resolve to formulate a joint strategy to fight terrorism, drug smuggling, human trafficking and other cross-border crimes.
By: Dawn News