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Friday, June 25, 2010

India to Pakistan: Time for dossiers over, act against Saeed

Islamabad/New Delhi: A day after their foreign secretary-level talks focused on trust-building measures, India Friday turned the spotlight on terror and asked Pakistan to act urgently on the dossiers provided by New Delhi, saying there was enough material to move against Mumbai terror mastermind Hafiz Saeed.

Home Minister P. Chidambaram, the first Indian minister to visit Pakistan since the 26/11 terror attack and the first Indian home minister to visit Islamabad in decades, held wide-ranging talks focused on the Mumbai attacks with his Pakistani counterpart Rehman Malik at the interior ministry in Islamabad.

Chidambaram also met Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

Signalling a distinct easing of ties strained after the 26/11 attacks, Malik went to the Chaklala Air Base in Rawalpindi and personally received Chidambaram, who was wearing his trademark spotless white shirt and dhoti. He was accorded a red carpet welcome and presented a ceremonial Guard of Honour.

Chidambaram is to participate in the SAARC home ministers' conference in Islamabad Saturday.

The Chidambaram-Malik talks lasted for nearly one and a half hour, but it ended without any announcement to the media. The sources said the bilateral talks between the two ministers may continue Saturday on the margins of the SAARC conference.

In his discussions with Malik, official sources said, Chidambaram impressed upon his host to address India's core concerns over terrorism with the seriousness they deserve and asked Pakistan to take demonstrable action against the Mumbai attackers and their handlers in Pakistan.

Building on Thursday's foreign secretary-level talks that were held in the spirit of the Thimphu thaw to bridge the trust deficit, Chidambaram underlined that India has given enough dossiers - an 11th was given a few days ago - and it was time for Pakistan to act and bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai carnage swiftly to justice.

Stressing on concrete action against Saeed, the founder of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terror group, Chidambaram sought the evidence presented by the Pakistan government against Saeed as Islamabad had earlier cited legal difficulties in prosecuting the anti-India ideologue. He also sought voice samples of the Pakistani handlers of the 10 Pakistani terrorists who stormed Mumbai Nov 26-29, 2008 that left 166 people, including 26 foreigners, dead and took up the recent spike in infiltration in Jammu and Kashmir.

However, unlike the foreign secretary level talks that were seen as exploratory trust-building exercise, Chidambaram reverted to a hardline on terror, underlining that if Islamabad continued to drag its feet over taking action against the 26/11 attackers and their handlers, no meaningful progress in relations can be made.

The two ministers began bilateral talks, with Malik saying that they are meeting with an 'open heart'.

'We are meeting with an open heart,' Malik told Pakistani reporters before Chidambaram flew into Islamabad.

Before leaving for Islamabad, Chidambaram made it clear that he will tell 'politely, but firmly' that the time has come to address issues concerning the Mumbai attack.

'I will use the opportunity to bring home to Pakistan the gravity of issues and the need for response that is appropriate to the gravity of the situation,' he said in New Delhi.

'It has been 18 months since I took over. The time has come to address these issues (regarding the Mumbai attack) with seriousness that they warrant. That is what I am going to tell them politely, but firmly,' Chidambaram said.

In an interview to Times Now TV news channel in New Delhi before leaving for Islamabad, Chidambaram said unambiguously that the time for giving dossiers was over and asked the Pakistani leadership to act against its nationals, including Hafiz Saeed. He also ruled out any dilution of India's stand on terrorism.

'I am not going there to score debating points. I am going to ask the Pakistani leadership to deliberate on the material that has been given and take appropriate action,' Chidambaram said.

Malik, on his part, said he would satisfy India's concerns over Hafiz Saeed and terrorism.

'Let's exchange hearts and not dossiers. We are meeting with a clean state,' Malik said in Islamabad before holding talks with Chidambaram.

The foreign-secretary level talks and the meeting between the home ministers will prepare the stage for the meeting between Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi July 15.

Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao held talks with her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir in Islamabad Thursday.

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