Halt terror to end strains in India-Pakistan ties, PM tells Gilani (Lead)

August 2nd, 2008 - 9:50 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh
By M.R. Narayan Swamy
Colombo, Aug 2 (IANS) A blunt Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told his Pakistani counterpart here Saturday that the suicide attack on the Indian mission in Kabul, rising ceasefire violations along the Kashmir border and infiltration of terrorists had hurt bilateral relations. Speaking candidly to Yousuf Raza Gilani on the sidelines of the 15th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit, Manmohan Singh voiced concern that the “recent events” had impacted on the prospects of their peace dialogue.

The Indian prime minister said that “such attacks” would have to stop for India and Pakistan to rebuild their strained ties.

Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon told reporters here that Gilani promised to conduct an investigation into New Delhi’s charges that the Pakistani intelligence was to blame for the July 7 suicide bombing at the Kabul mission that killed 50 people, including two Indian diplomats.

India has accused the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of masterminding the suicide bombing. Similar accusations have also been made by the US and Afghan authorities.

Gilani promised to discuss the attack Sunday morning with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, who earlier Saturday apologized to India for the worst attack on any Indian mission anywhere in the world.

Manmohan Singh identified increased infiltration of terrorists from Pakistan into Jammu and Kashmir and violations of the ceasefire on the Line of Control (LoC) dividing the state between the two countries, leading to gun battles between their armies, as other key factors that had affected otherwise improving bilateral relations.

“It was a candid and open conversation between two individuals who wanted to go forward,” Menon said. “These (issues) would have to be addressed,” he quoted the Indian prime minister as saying.

Asked if the serial bombings in Ahmedabad and Bangalore, which too claimed about 50 lives last month, were mentioned during Manmohan Singh’s meeting with Gilani, Menon said that Indian investigations into those attacks were still at a preliminary stage.

“They were not mentioned with the kind of specificity that we have about the Kabul blast.”

Gilani told Manmohan Singh that Pakistan considered the ceasefire on the Jammu and Kashmir border as the most important confidence building measure.

Gilani, who became prime minister in March, emphasized that all political parties in Pakistan wanted better relations with India.

Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan have fought three major wars since their independence in 1947 and control parts of Jammu and Kashmir. In recent times, India has accused the ISI of fomenting Islamist terrorism on Indian soil while Islamabad says that the Indian intelligence is aiding militants in Balochistan.

On Saturday, after the opening of the two-day SAARC summit, Manmohan Singh also reviewed bilateral relations with Bhutanese Prime Minister Jigmey Thinley as well as Fakhruddin Ahmed, the chief advisor of the caretaker Bangladesh government.

Ahmed told Manmohan Singh that Bangladesh was committed to holding elections by December. The two leaders also agreed to work together to combat terrorism.

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