India, Pakistan to discuss anti-terror steps Tuesday

June 23rd, 2008 - 3:37 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Manmohan Singh

New Delhi, June 23 (IANS) Ahead of Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s visit here later this week, India and Pakistan will hold their third meeting of the anti-terror mechanism in Islamabad Tuesday to discuss cooperation in combating, what they have come to see as, the “common menace”. Vivek Katju, additional secretary (political and international organizations) in the external affairs ministry, will lead the Indian side at the talks that also includes T.C.A. Raghavan, joint secretary in charge of Pakistan. The Pakistani delegation will be headed by Masood Khalid, additional secretary (Asia Pacific), during the talks which will be held in the premises of the Pakistan foreign office.

Officials of the two sides will discuss various counter-terrorism measures and swap information to assist in investigations into terrorist acts at the first meeting of the anti-terror mechanism after the installation of a civilian government in Pakistan.

The serial blasts in Jaipur that killed at least 60 people May 13 will also figure in the discussions. Unlike the July 11, 2006 attacks on commuter trains in Mumbai for which India had blamed Pakistan-based terrorists, this time around New Delhi has not pointed fingers at any militant outfit allegedly operating from across the border.

India will also convey its concerns about the peace deal between the Pakistan government and the Taliban militants in the Swat valley which New Delhi fears may free up these terrorists to plan attacks on the Indian territory, official sources said.

During the last two meetings, the Indian side had shared information with the Pakistani side about the alleged involvement of militants from across the border in some of the earlier terror attacks, including the deadly explosions in the Samjhauta Express and the Hyderabad blasts in 2007.

Pakistan had agreed to pursue the leads provided by Indian authorities but nothing tangible has emerged from the exercise.

During his visit to Islamabad last month, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee conveyed India’s concerns on cross-border terrorism with both sides agreeing to “fight terrorism in all its forms and manifestations”.

The two sides also “re-emphasised the need for effective steps for the complete elimination of this menace”. The declaration indicated Pakistan’s willingness to step up cooperation with India as it has been the target of a spate of terror attacks over the past two years.

The last meeting of the joint anti-terrorism mechanism was held in New Delhi Oct 22, 2007.

The two sides set up the mechanism, which was seen as ground-breaking due to the history of distrust between the two neighbours, in September 2006 after talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Pervez Musharraf on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Havana.

Qureshi comes here Friday on a four-day visit for foreign minister-level talks with his Indian counterpart Mukherjee.

The issue of terrorism, which is among the eight items in the composite dialogue, will also figure in the discussions between the two foreign ministers.

The talks will set the tone for the fifth round of composite dialogue which is likely to be launched by the foreign secretaries of the two countries around mid-July.

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