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NEW DELHI: India on Tuesday responded to the house arrest of Jamaatud Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed in Punjab by demanding a “credible crackdown on terrorism”, saying the man accused of masterminding the Mumbai carnage in November 2008 was picked up and freed previously by Pakistan.

“Exercises such as yesterday’s orders against Hafiz Saeed and others have been carried out by Pakistan in the past also,” foreign ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said.

“Only a credible crackdown on the mastermind of the Mumbai terrorist attack and terrorist organisations involved in cross-border terrorism would be proof of Pakistan’s sincerity,” he added.

Behind the terse statement, however, several developments could be linked to suggest improved atmospherics between the two countries. The fact that Pakistan freed an Indian soldier it had picked up near the Line of Control in September last year, and that both sides agreed not to grandstand on the issue, has been welcomed by peace activists as an important conciliatory gesture by Islamabad.

India and Afghanistan had targeted Pakistan at an international meeting in Amritsar recently. The fact that Saeed’s house arrest coincides with this week’s comments by Afghanistan’s envoy in Islamabad that Kabul was ready to hold unconditional talks with the Taliban presents an entirely different picture to what the world saw in Amritsar.

Published in Dawn, February 1st, 2017