NEW DELHI: Notorious naysayers in the India-Pakistan equation – their interior ministries – became unusual facilitators to a slew of ground-breaking agreements here on Tuesday, which includes sharing real-time intelligence to prevent terror attacks. The agreements between Indian Home Secretary G.K. Pillai and Pakistan’s Interior Secretary Qamar Zaman Chaudhary went beyond the Thimphu spirit and revived the promise of Sharm el Sheikh. It was there that sharing of real-time intelligence was proposed only to be abandoned in the face of opposition from the hawks, not the least from intelligence and security establishment on both sides.
A hotline link to the secretaries was proposed to give muscle to the new resolve. An equally noteworthy achievement concerned speeding up the tardy Mumbai terror probe. Probe teams from both sides will now be allowed to carry out investigations in across the border.
“Pakistani side provided updates on the ongoing trial and investigation in Pakistan on the Mumbai terror attacks,” said the joint statement following two days of talks. “Pakistan conveyed its readiness, in principle, based upon the principle of comity and reciprocity, to entertain a commission from India with respect to Mumbai terror attack investigations.”
Modalities and composition in this connection will be worked out through diplomatic channels. As for the reciprocity, the statement said: “Dates for the visit of the Judicial Commission from Pakistan in connection with Mumbai attack trial will be conveyed by India within four-six weeks.”
The statement stressed that their federal investigative agencies – India’s NIA and Pakistan’s FIA – “will continue to cooperate in the Mumbai terror attack investigations”. It reported that the meeting was held in a cordial and friendly atmosphere.
It was important for both sides to remain engaged on outstanding issues and, therefore, henceforth the interior secretary-level talks would be held bi-annually, the statement said.
Both sides reiterated their commitment to fight terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and reaffirmed the need to bring those responsible for such crimes to justice.
India provided information on the ongoing Samjhautha Express blast case investigation. It was also agreed that after the filing of report in the court, updated information would be shared with the Pakistan authorities concerned.
The interior secretaries “noted and welcomed the release of prisoners and fishermen by each other since the last round of talks”. They agreed that both sides would release by April 15 those civilian prisoners/fishermen who have completed their sentence, whose nationality status has been confirmed by the respective governments and whose travel documents have been received. A complete list of prisoners in each other’s custody will be exchanged by both sides on July 1, 2011.
The problem of those who inadvertently cross the borders should be viewed sympathetically, and in a focused and sensitive manner, they agreed. “Accordingly, both sides also agreed to task the Coast Guard of India and Pakistan Maritime Security Agency to work on setting up a mechanism for release of inadvertent crossers (fishermen) and their boats on the same lines as the inadvertent crossers on land. The group will submit its report to the Home/Interior Secretaries before the next round of talks.”
Both sides commended the work done by the Judicial Committee on Prisoners for the release, repatriation and humane treatment of prisoners and agreed on the need for its continuation. The next meeting of the Judicial Committee would be held from April 19 to 23, 2011, in Pakistan.
Both sides shared their concern over the growing menace of narcotics and drugs and agreed that cooperation between the nodal agencies of both sides whose chiefs would meet annually. The round starts with Pakistan hosting the first meeting in May.
It was decided that their federal police would schedule a meeting to work out the technical details of moving forward on issues of human trafficking, counterfeit currency, cyber crimes and Red Corner Notices.
Both sides agreed to set up a Joint Working Group to examine the modalities for streamlining the visa procedure/modalities and for giving a final shape to revision of the Bilateral Visa Agreement. The Indian home secretary accepted an invitation to visit Pakistan.