In spite of more than a year of political bonhomie between India and Pakistan and a series of optimistic talks about easing trade and the visa process, the two nuclear-armed neighbors continue to remain as far apart as before on the fundamental issue of terrorism.
This week’s meeting between the foreign officials of India and Pakistan in New Delhi was aimed at building an overall climate of trust.
But the stumbling block, as ever, was the inability to agree on who was responsible for plotting the deadly attack on Mumbai in 2008, which killed 166 people, including six Americans.
With the recent capture and interrogation of a key suspect in Mumbai attacks, Indian officials are now eager to pin down what they believe was the role of Pakistani intelligence agency in guiding the 10 gunmen who attacked a café, two five-star hotels, a train station and a Jewish prayer center.
Investigators say that the captive Sayed Zabiuddin, who is also known as Abu Jundal, was in the control room in Pakistan when the Mumbai attacks were underway.
“Bringing the guilty to justice in the Mumbai terror attacks would be the biggest confidence-building measure of all,” Ranjan Mathai, India’s foreign secretary said at a press conference on Thursday. “The ongoing interrogation of Abu Jundal has now added urgency to the matter.”
Even as the foreign officials began their meeting on Wednesday, India’s home minister, Palaniappan Chidambaram, appeared to torpedo the talks by choosing to reiterate publicly the Pakistani state role in Mumbai attacks – a point he had made last week.
Jilani Abbas Jilani rejected that charge on Thursday.
“I would very strongly reject any insinuation of any involvement of any state agency in acts of terrorism in India,” Jilani said at the conference. “Blaming each other will bring no benefit.”
At the end of the day, the talks are meant to keep the talks going, perhaps to please Washington, but with little hope of making a real breakthrough.
“The very fact that both sides are determined to sit across the table to resolve all outstanding issues through a dialogue in a peaceful manner is a positive step in the right direction,” Mathai said.
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