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Terror clouds Indo-Pak talks
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 14
Last night’s deadly blast in Pune not only threatens to jeopardise the foreign secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan on February 25 but has also made New Delhi reflect once again on how thorny is the path to peace with Islamabad.

As of now, the meeting between the two foreign secretaries will be held as scheduled but another terrorist attack in the next 10 days may well force India to reconsider its move to initiate the dialogue with the neighbouring country after a 14-month chill.

Sources said the government would wait for the outcome of the investigations into the Pune blast. If the probe points to the involvement of elements in Pakistan in the attack, New Delhi would be left with no choice but to re-examine its decision to invite Pakistan Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir to New Delhi for talks with his Indian counterpart Nirupama Rao.

A final decision in the matter could only be taken at the highest political level. Officials said the timing of the blast indicated that the terrorist groups were out to sabotage any dialogue between the two countries and wanted tension between them to persist. The blast has taken place just a day after the dates were finalised for the dialogue between the top diplomats of India and Pakistan.

The officials said the Pune incident has reinforced New Delhi’s contention that the talks between the two countries should focus on terrorism emanating from Pakistani soil.

While it is still not known who carried out the Pune attack, the apprehension is that it could only be the handiwork of Pakistan-based terrorist groups in coordination with Indian modules.

At their recent meetings in Pakistan to express ‘solidarity’ with the people of Kashmir, Lashkar-e-Toiba leaders had openly called for attacking cities like Delhi, Pune, Kanpur and Indore.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s decision to walk the extra mile in relations with Pakistan is being questioned in political circles in the wake of yesterday’s blast in Pune, that killed nine people and left 57 injured. The government knows all too well that the talks with Pakistan would figure prominently during the Budget Session of Parliament beginning from April 22.

The BJP, describing India’s decision to hold talks with Pakistan as misconceived and adventurous, has already stated that terrorism and talks could not go together. The BJP’s belligerence is only expected to grow in the coming days, in the run up to the talks between the two foreign secretaries.

Fully aware that the blast could cast a shadow on the talks, Pakistan promptly condemned the incident in Pune. “I condemn the incident in Pune,” Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told reporters.

External Affairs Minister SM Krishna sidestepped a question on the fate of foreign secretary-level talks in the wake of the Pune bomb blast. “I am not going to talk about the talks right now. Let us wait for the report (of the investigative agencies) first,” Krishna told reporters in Chennai.

US Ambassador Timothy J Roemer condemned the bakery blast. “On behalf of the people of the United States, I extend heartfelt sympathy to the Government of India and the victims of this tragic terrorist attack. The US remains shoulder-to-shoulder with India in the fight against terror and will assist as needed to help bring the perpetrators of this cowardly act to justice,” he said.




PM wants speedy probe into blast
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 14
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today reviewed the situation following the Pune blast and directed the Union and Maharashtra governments to take coordinated and effective action to speedily investigate the matter. Singh, who discussed the situation with Home Minister P Chidambaram, directed speedy investigation so that "the culprits responsible for this heinous act are identified and brought to justice at the earliest," a PMO spokesman said.

Chidambaram briefed the Prime Minister on his visit to Pune and on the state of investigations. Expressing his deepest condolences and sympathies to the families of all those killed and injured in the incident, Singh announced relief of Rs 2 lakh from the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund to the next of kin of those killed in the terror attack and Rs 1 lakh to the injured. The Prime Minister said the government would extend whatever help was required by the families of those killed and injured in the incident, the spokesman said.



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