M A I N   N E W S

No clarity on talks agenda
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 18
Despite a meeting between Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and Pakistan High Commissioner Shahid Malik yesterday, the agenda for the talks between the Foreign Secretaries of India and Pakistan here on February 25 is still not clear. Differences have surfaced within the foreign office over the Foreign Secretary’s brief for the much-anticipated talks.

While External Affairs Minister SM Krishna is insisting that the talks should focus on terrorism being sponsored from across the border, there is an influential section in the South Block which feels there is nothing wrong in discussing any other issue that Islamabad might like to raise.

The Pakistani High Commissioner was expected to meet Nirupama again today but the meeting did not take place. Islamabad is said to have sought clarifications on Krishna’s statement in a television interview yesterday that the focal point of the talks would be the issue of terrorism. Pakistan wants inclusion of Kashmir and water disputes in the agenda.

Strategic observers believe that both sides are attempting to score brownie points over the agenda ahead of the talks obviously with an eye on their respective domestic constituencies.

Sources here acknowledged that the talks cannot be held in the format of a ‘monologue’ by India on the issue of terrorism. Of course, New Delhi would highlight terrorism and the Pakistan’s ‘half-hearted’ effort to bring to justice the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attacks. It would also raise the issue of recent rallies organised by terrorist groups in Pakistan to express solidarity with the people of Kashmir, at which some of the top terrorist leaders threatened to attack Indian cities. However, if Pakistan were to raise any other issue, New Delhi was prepared to discuss them, the sources added.

They, however, made it clear that the talks between the two Foreign Secretaries could not be interpreted as the resumption of the composite dialogue process, as was being interpreted by Islamabad.

India is also expected to seek from Pakistan voice samples of seven LeT operatives accused in the Mumbai terror attacks. The seven are: Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, Zarar Shah, Abu Al Qama, Sahid Jamil Riaz, Hamad Amin Sadiq, Younous Anjum and Jamil Ahmed. The voice samples are crucial to 26/11 investigations as they will help ascertain if those in custody by Pakistan are the ones who guided the Mumbai assault team during the attacks

It is also likely that Nirupama would draw her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir’s attention to the training being provided to cadre of the Indian Mujahideen under ‘Karachi Project’.

The sources said India had genuine reasons to suspend the dialogue in the wake of the Mumbai carnage. New Delhi’s coercive diplomacy had paid rich dividends with the international community jointly forcing Pakistan to initiate ‘some action’ against the masterminds of the Mumbai attacks.



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