Arrest of Abu Jundal one of the key masterminds of 26/11 Mumbai attacks cast its shadow on India-Pakistan Foreign Secretaries meeting held in New Delhi for two days. India clarified on its part about bringing to justice perpetrators of 26/11 terror attacks as the biggest confidence building measures. Pakistan Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani agreed in principle for joint probe to be conducted by both the countries.
Joint statement re-affirmed pledge of both the countries to fight terrorism together. Symbolism and exchange of information on terrorism has failed to carry forward setting up mechanisms to combat terrorism, nothing much concrete has been established. Although during the talks, forward movement on various other issues took place, especially on CBMs in nuclear fields, trade and travel.
Before the joint statement words of caution came up from the Indian foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai, “While we might not agree on all issues, we do agree that relations between our two countries have to be normalized. There is a determination on both sides to take forward our dialogue with an open mind and a constructive spirit.”
Added to this, joint statement made mention of building peace, combating terrorism and making forward movement on Kashmir. People-to people contacts do find mention, but ironically as the last point in the joint statement.
Abu Jundal revelations have startled security establishment in India which in turn had its impact on FS levels talks in New Delhi. The tone and tenor of the talk’s shows fatigue syndrome which seems to have hit both the parties, that is why no giant strides were achieved, neither attempt was made to decipher Gods Particle.
Terrorism continues to pose a serious threat in enhancing fruitful bilateral cooperation between India and Pakistan. Even though, Jilani made a mere reference of talks between Indian Home Ministry and the Pakistan Interior ministry and quashed claim made by Indian journalist in the media briefing, -“arrest of Abu Jundal was a setback for the peace process.” In fact, the FS Jilani was in complete denial of state support to terrorism and in fact pinned blame of Samajauhta train blasts on an arrested Indian army officer.
In reality, arrest of Jundal and his revelations, if are to be believed then involvement of ISI officers in the 26/11 attacks cannot be ruled out. Statement of Indian home minister Chidambaram proves this claim, “The contention that the attacks were perpetrated by non-state players was no more valid. I’m not pin-pointing… any particular agency, but there was state support.”
Nevertheless, Pakistan was quick to offer its rebuttal to the statement made by Chidambaram and “Senior Adviser Interior Rehman Malik described the charge as a “propaganda campaign” against the Inter Services Intelligence; adding that Pakistan took pride in its spy agency.” Pakistan has pinpointed at role of Indian nationals in the 26/11 terror attacks and questioned intention of India to blame Pakistan for all this.
In such a war of words which has played out on the world stage between India and Pakistan especially after the arrest of Abu Jundal overshadows talks of top diplomats of both the countries.
India in the coming months will press hard Pakistan to hand over or put Hafiz Saeed and others who are still at large in Pakistan territory to book or else the peace process will move forward but at snail’s pace. If issues of terrorism are not addressed, chances of a forward movement are slim, unless the political leadership of both the countries takes a big giant leap forward in normalization of relations.
India also needs to move on from 26/11 attacks and engage with Pakistan on various pending issues which are on the verge of finalization, for instance, agreement on withdrawal of troops in Siachen glacier, final settlement of Sir Creek issue. People to people contact needs to be enhanced through free movement of men and goods of trade, this is possible only if liberal visa regime is agreed and implemented in letter and spirit.