India says ‘terrorism’ back on talks-agenda with Pakistan (Lead)

May 14th, 2008 - 11:23 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Nawaz Sharif

New Delhi, May 14 (IANS) Stunned by the serial blasts in Jaipur that Tuesday killed at least 63 people and injured more than 200, India asserted Wednesday that “cross-border terrorism” was back on the agenda for talks with Pakistan. “Stopping cross-border terror is very high on our priority,” said foreign secretary Shivshankar Menon. He will be leaving for Islamabad to hold talks May 20 with his Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir.

A day later, external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee will hold discussions with Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi.

This will be the first formal engagement between the two sides since the Pakistan Peoples Party-led government came to power in Islamabad March this year.

The Indian assertion came as reports of firing by Pakistani troops on Indian positions on the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir poured in Wednesday to suggest that for the first time since 2003 the truce agreement put in place by the two sides has been violated.

But senior officers of the two armies spoke to each other on the hotline Wednesday afternoon to resolve the imbroglio.

So far, India has not named any country for the Jaipur blasts. But union minister of state for home affairs Shri Prakash Jaiswal said “state-sponsored terrorism from neighbouring countries” was behind Tuesday’s terrorist attack.

But when the foreign secretary was asked whether India suspected the involvement of Pakistan-based terrorists in the serial blasts, Menon said: “We are in the process of investigating the incident. Let’s not jump to conclusions.”

Diplomatic considerations may have led India to refrain from naming any country. A peace process has been on with Pakistan for the past four years and the leadership in New Delhi does not want to jeopardize it.

But the Jaipur blasts and Sunday’s terror attack on the Samba military garrison in Jammu and Kashmir has made it bring back terrorism and infiltration from across the border as the main focus of the forthcoming talks with Pakistan.

A number of countries including Israel, Japan, Afghanistan, United Kingdom, Canada, United Arab Emirates and Bangladesh rallied behind India in condemning the terror attack and renewing the call for a “concerted effort” to fight global terrorism.

The US went a step ahead with an offer to provide “all assistance” to India in the investigation. US ambassador in India David Mulford met the foreign secretary and discussed the evolving situation in the wake of the Jaipur blasts.

“We have offered our assistance in analyzing and understanding the aftermath of this tragedy,” Mulford told reporters after his half-hour meeting with Menon in South Block Wednesday morning. “We told the government that we are willing to help them in any way we can,” he said.

Pakistani leaders Asif Ali Zardari, chairperson of PPP, and former Prime Minister and Pakistan Muslim League (N) supremo Nawaz Sharif also came out with strong statements condemning the Jaipur attack.

“The stopping of violence is in some ways a necessary condition for what we are trying to achieve,” Menon said Wednesday.

The peace process between India and Pakistan has been continuing for the past four years and the two sides are also engaged in a “Composite Dialogue” that allows them to discuss both terrorism and Jammu and Kashmir, among other outstanding issues.

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