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Anti-Terror Steps
Pressurise Pak to do more, Burns told
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, June 10
Armed with a brief to nudge India to resume dialogue with Pakistan, US Under Secretary of State William Burns today discussed a wide range of issues with Indian leaders but both sides preferred to maintain a veil of secrecy over the nature of talks.

However, it is learnt that while not ruling out the possibility of engaging Pakistan, New Delhi conveyed to the US its dissatisfaction with the measures taken by Islamabad to deal with terrorist forces acting against India from its soil.

The top American diplomat was also told by New Delhi in unambiguous terms that Washington ought to exert more pressure on Pakistan to bring to book the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. India took a clear position that the onus of creating a proper atmosphere for the resumption of the bilateral dialogue was on Islamabad.

This was the first high-level dialogue between India and the US after the UPA assumed office for a second five-year term late last month.

During the four-day visit, Burns is also expected to do the groundwork for the visit of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to India in mid-July.

What, however, made foreign office mandarins a little uncomfortable was a statement from the US State Department ahead of Burns talks in New Delhi. Burns will pitch for the resumption of dialogue between New Delhi and Islamabad during his meetings with the Indian, the State Department spokesman said in Washington.

New Delhi is of the firm view that it would resume dialogue with Pakistan only on its own terms after it is convinced about Islamabad’s intention and sincerity to deal with ‘jehadi’ elements acting against Indian interests.

But speculation is already on about the possibility of the two countries breaking the ice when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh comes face to face with Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit at Yekaterinburg in Russia next week.

While not ruling out the possibility of a meeting between the two leaders, official sources said nothing had been finalised as of now.

During the course of the day, Burns held extensive talks with Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon and later called on External Affairs Minister SM Krishna and Home Minister P Chidambaram. India-Pakistan relations, the Obama administration’s Af-Pak strategy and the bilateral Indo-US agenda figured prominently during the discussions.

Burns made a brief statement as he emerged from his meeting with Krishna at the South Block. “We (India and the US) have come a long way together. President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have sent me with a clear message that India is our major foreign policy priority.”

He said India was a crucial global partner of the US and he had held excellent meetings with his Indian interlocutors. “I am here to chart together an ambitious bilateral agenda for the next phase of the strategic partnership, ” he added. Burns will meet National Security Adviser (NSA) MK Narayanan and call on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Leader of the Opposition LK Advani.

The sources said Menon conveyed to Burns that India was not averse to resuming dialogue with Pakistan but for that a proper atmosphere would have to be created by Islamabad. Talks could not be held in an atmosphere of violence and apprehensions of more terror attacks.

He was also told how the Pakistani authorities had virtually facilitated the release of Hafiz Saeed, Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief and a key plotter of the 26/11 attacks, from his house arrest in Lahore recently.

Menon pointed out to Burns that Pakistan might have launched a massive action against the Taliban in Swat valley and other areas but was reluctant to act with safe vigour against anti-India groups like the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT).

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