India, Pakistan to Share Intelligence on Terrorist Threats

By Rama Lakshmi
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, July 17, 2009

NEW DELHI, July 16 -- India and Pakistan agreed Thursday to increase communication and information-sharing in an effort to prevent terrorist attacks and said dialogue was the only way forward in the wake of violence such as November's siege in Mumbai.

The leaders of the two countries spoke for almost two hours on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement summit at the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt. In a statement afterward, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani agreed to "share real-time, credible and actionable" intelligence information about possible terrorist plots.

The joint statement represented a break in the bitter blame game that followed the deadly Mumbai attacks. "Both leaders affirmed their resolve to fight terrorism and cooperate with each other to this end," the statement said.

Until now, New Delhi had insisted that Pakistan take "concrete and demonstrable" action to prevent cross-border terrorism as a precondition for the resumption of peace talks.

However, the joint statement said that "action on terror should not be linked to the composite dialogue process and these should not be bracketed" and that "terrorism is the main threat to both countries."

During the talks, Singh reiterated his demand to "bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks to justice," and Gillani assured that Pakistan would do "everything in its power in this regard."

Gillani called the meeting a "major breakthrough," according to the Press Trust of India.

Singh told reporters that he sought an assurance from Gillani that there would be no repeat of attacks like the Mumbai siege.

"He said to me, 'I, too, recognize what you are saying. You give us information whenever any such threat exists. We will work with India to prevent such things from happening,' " Singh said.

Talks between the nations, which have fought three wars, broke down in November when 10 gunmen laid siege to the western Indian city of Mumbai for three days, killing more than 170 people.

New Delhi accused an outlawed Islamist group based in Pakistan, Lashkar-i-Taiba, of engineering the attacks. One of the alleged gunmen, a Pakistani national, is in Indian custody and is on trial in Mumbai.

In another step toward cooperation, Singh met Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari in Russia last month for the first time since November.

On Wednesday, India's foreign secretary, Shiv Shankar Menon, told reporters that India has never shied away from holding talks, and he appeared to place responsibility for the tension on Pakistan.

"We have a situation where India-Pakistan relations are stressed, and they are stressed for certain reasons -- because of terrorist attacks on India from Pakistan," Menon said, according to a transcript from the Indian Foreign Ministry. "So, we need to take that into account to see how we move forward, how we deal with that first."

An Indian official said India has kept the vexing issue of the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir out of the talks and has narrowed the focus to the issue of terrorism.

But Singh agreed to let Pakistan include in the joint statement a mention about threats in its Baluchistan province, which Pakistan has blamed on India in the past.

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