M A I N   N E W S

Indo-Pak talks end without much headway
New Delhi says talks first step to rebuild trust
n Issue of Saeed’s arrest comes up
n Islamabad raises Balochistan
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

‘Protect minorities’

India on Thursday conveyed to Pakistan its concern over the beheading of Sikhs in its North West Province and asked Islamabad to protect religious minorities in Pakistan. The beheading of two Sikhs by the Taliban was raised by Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao at the talks. “We expressed our grave concern over the beheading of Sikhs and asked for action against those responsible for the crime. It is the duty of the Pakistan Government to protect all religious minorities in the country. The beheading of Sikhs has outraged the people in India with various Sikh organisations holding protest rallies and asking the government to take up the matter with Pakistan,” Nirupama said.

Step in right direction: US

Washington: The US today described resumption of Foreign Secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan as an "important step" in the right direction as it appreciated the both the countries for not succumbing to terrorist game plan.

Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs PJ Crowley commended the leadership of both countries for going ahead with the talks at the highest level after the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attacks, despite some recent effort by terrorist groups to derail the process. The US favours the resumption of "direct talks" between India and Pakistan and "encourages" them to proceed with the dialogue as it is in their mutual interest, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said. — PTI

New Delhi, February 25
A breakthrough eluded India and Pakistan at the Foreign Secretary-level talks with New Delhi rejecting Islamabad’s plea for the resumption of the composite dialogue process (CDP) and handing over three fresh dossiers to the neighbouring country linking elements in Pakistan, including JuD chief Hafiz Saeed, with terrorist activities on the Indian soil.

At the first official dialogue between the two countries after a 14-month hiatus, India focused on terrorism emanating from the Pakistani territory, while Pakistan raised the Kashmir, water and Balochistan issues. Sources in the Indian establishment asserted that 85 per cent of the discussion centered around the issue of terrorism. The sources said it was obvious from the tone and tenor of the Pakistani delegation that it was getting instructions from the Pakistan Army. “While we get our brief from the democratic government, the Pakistanis get briefing from the men in khaki.’’ The three-hour talks, being seen by diplomatic observers more as an exercise in scoring brownie points by the two sides, ended with Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir announcing at separate press briefings that they would remain in touch and continue endeavours to restore trust in the relationship.

However, it was quite clear from the statements of the two top diplomats that they would have to cover a lot of distance in putting the peace process between the two neighbours back on track.

To Pakistan’s demand for reviving the CDS, Nirupama told her opposite number that India certainly did not discount the achievements of the CDS that was conducted from January 2004-2007. However, the time was not ripe for it. “We have to create a climate of trust and confidence and adopt a graduated step-by-step approach to reach that stage,” she said. She said India had expressed disappointment at the lack of sufficient prosecuting action on the information provided about the complicity of Pakistan-based individuals and organisations in the Mumbai terror attacks.

“While acknowledging the steps taken by Pakistan to bring the perpetrators of Mumbai terror attack to book, I pointed out that these did not go far enough to unravel the full conspiracy behind the Mumbai attacks and to award exemplary punishment to the culprits,” she told the media after the three-hour talks at the Hyderabad House. She said that Pakistan had to take “expeditious” action on the investigations, “including by following up on the leads that have emerged following the arrest of David Coleman Headley and Tahawuur Hussain Rana in the USA”. Headley and Rana have been accused of being part of the Lashkar-e-Toiba and taking part in the planning of the Mumbai terror attacks.

The Indian Foreign Secretary said three dossiers had been handed over to the Pakistani delegation asking it to take action against terrorists on its soil. She made specific reference to the February 5 rallies, when these organisations openly talked about terror acts against India. Nirupama made specific reference to the February 5 rallies, when these organisations openly talked about terror acts against India.

On the Balochistan issue, Nirupama firmly rejected Pakistan’s charge that India was fuelling unrest there. New Delhi had never interefered in the internal affairs of any country. India also dismissed the Islamabad’s concern expressed that it was depriving Pakistan of water by making dams and said the Indus water treaty had stood the test of time to settle differences between the two nations on water sharing issues.

Pakistan did raise, what it calls the core issue of Kashmir, and India reiterated its position that the whole of Jammu and Kashmir, including Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) is an integral part of India.

Pakistan High Commissioner Salman Bashir acknowledged that terrorism posed a serious threat to the region, more to his country. He said Pakistan was in the forefront of the war against terrorism. India, which for years had been describing Pakistan as the epicentre of terrorism, needs to revisit this phrase in the context of Pakistan, he added. He said Pakistan favoured resumption of the CDP but was not desperate in that regard. New Delhi should stop making “unfair and unreasonable” demands. Islamabad was doing all that could to bring to justice those alleged to be behind the Mumbai attacks. However, the due process of law was to be followed in the matter.

He said India had given to Pakistan a dossier on Hafiz Saeed earlier, which was examined by the competent authority in Pakistan. The dossier, however, turned out to be more of literature than evidence of his complicity in the attacks in India.



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