ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will raise the issue of alleged Indian role in fomenting unrest in Balochistan and tribal areas at the interior secretaries meeting slated for Monday, but will also try to make sure that the contentious issues do not bog down the nascent peace process. The Pakistani side will also ask India to share information about investigation into the Samjhauta Express bombing of 2007.
“All issues are going to be discussed. When we are going to talk about terrorism, it is not going to be confined to the Mumbai attacks. The best interest of both countries demands a transparent approach whereby any apprehensions on either side should adequately be looked into by the other side,” a senior government official said at a briefing for Diplomatic Correspondents Association on Saturday.
The interior secretaries’ parleys are the first in the series of dialogue taking place under the umbrella of revived full spectrum dialogue and would be followed by meetings of senior officials in other segments.
The interior secretaries’ meeting is significant for the future of this renewed process because India had always pre-conditioned discussions on other issues to talks on counter-terrorism, particularly progress on the trial of Mumbai suspects in Pakistan.
The government is cognisant of the possible implications of the outcome of the interior secretaries meeting for other coming engagements over the next few months and is unlikely to press for any undoable because that could damage the revived process even before it takes off.
“As this happens to be the first meeting amongst various other segments following this session, we would like to lay positive ground for the future engagements,” the official noted.Any reference of alleged Indian role in subversive activities in Balochistan and the tribal regions during India-Pakistan talks always irks the Indian side.
Although there were a number of reasons for India reneging on the Sharm El Sheikh agreement of 2009, one of the factors for its premature demise was the inclusion of Balochistan on the agenda.
However, the official suggested that there was some sort of agreement whereby both sides were open to patiently listening to each other’s concerns.
“Without going into specifics, we have agreed through over diplomatic exchanges that all issues would be discussed in an open manner. That is going to be the basics of our engagement.”
The official further said: “The raison d’etre for our getting together and sitting across the table, talking about issues is that we would like to deter acts of terrorism in all its manifestations and we would like to point out all such actors, who have been involved in acts of terrorism so that this could be eliminated from the spectrum of our relations.”
MUMBAI TRIAL: The Pakistani side, to be led by Interior Secretary Chaudhry Qamar Zaman, will share progress made in the trial of Mumbai suspects.
“We are going to be talking about the Mumbai trial in a manner which has very much moved ahead. We have lot of progress that we would be talking with our Indian counterparts. That is very satisfying progress that we will be conveying to them,” the official said.
The statement issued jointly by Delhi and Islamabad in February on the resumption of talks had specifically mentioned ‘progress on Mumbai trial’ among the subjects that would be discussed in the recommenced dialogue.
The official, however, did not provide any specific details about the progress that would be shared with India.
Authorities have charged seven suspects, including Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, with involvement in the Mumbai incident, but their trial by an anti-terrorism court has been impeded due to technical reasons.
The official said both sides would discuss the issue of sending a judicial commission to India to interview key persons linked to the Mumbai attacks. VISA RELAXATIONS: One area where both sides are likely to make headway is the relaxation of visa restrictions for travel between the two countries.
“Visa is a major topic at the talks. Presently we may not be in a position to say anything about opening of new border crossing points. But certainly about easing of visa restrictions, yes we will want to make headway,” the official said, adding that some proposals in this regard had been received from India. These too will be taken up at the dialogue.
The interior secretaries are also likely to discuss matters related to controlling smuggling of drugs and narcotics; and the plight of civilians and fishermen currently under detention in both countries.
The Pakistan-India judicial committee on prisoners, which was set up for furthering the objective of humane treatment of nationals arrested, detained or imprisoned in either country, has been inactive since the suspension of peace talks after the 2008 Mumbai attacks.