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‘Govts of India, Pak eager to restart talks’

Last Updated: Wednesday, February 24, 2010 - 16:28

The international community and pundits were curiously waiting for the resumption of Indo-Pak talks when a blast at the German Bakery in Pune shook the already-tensed ties even harder. Although the idea of renewal of talks between New Delhi and Islamabad is welcoming, yet the way in which terror-hit India proposed it to Pakistan seemed imprudent.

The Indian proposal almost became a subject of mockery when Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi claimed that it was Islamabad, which compelled India to restart talks. While addressing a public gathering, Qureshi went on to state that Pakistan had refused to “bow to their (India’s) pressure” after the Mumbai terror attacks.

In fact, Pakistan accepted the date of February 25 proposed by India in quite a supercilious attitude.

And then a devastating explosion in Pune, the first major terror strike in the country since 26/11 attacks, put a question mark on the fate of Indo-Pak talks. A little known Pakistani terror group, Lashkar-e-Toiba Al Alami (LeT-international), called an Indian journalist in Islamabad a few days later and owned up to the attack, which has so far claimed 14 lives.

In an exclusive interview with Kamna Arora of, Kim Barker, Edward R Murrow Press Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, discusses resumption of Indo-Pak talks. Kim has also worked as a foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune.

Kamna: India’s External Affairs Minister SM Krishna has already declined to comment on the fate of the February 25 Foreign Secretary-level talks between India and Pakistan in the wake of the Pune bomb blast. Do you think the two sides should move forward with talks?

Kim: Peace is always a good thing. I`ve lived in both India and Pakistan, and what I saw in both countries taught me that the people are more alike than different, that they want the same things for their families, that they want to live in peace.

Kamna: What will be the implications of the Pune blast on ‘already-tensed’ Indo-Pak ties?

Kim: Well, it will have an impact, but we still have to wait for the investigation. I hardly trust that an anonymous call, allegedly from a phone number in Waziristan, is accurate. I think the Indian media needs to wait and verify the facts before simply blaming Pakistan. And I think that the Indian government realises this. I think both the governments are eager to restart talks.

Kamna: What do you have to say on Pakistan’s security system when you hear Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed and other jehadi leaders freely addressing rallies spewing venom against India?

Kim: This is a very broad question, one that could result in a thesis. I will say that Pakistan historically has had a relationship with some of these groups, especially Lashkar-e-Toiba, and has in the past considered them part of their strategy for Kashmir.

Obviously, there has been a bit of a double game going on. Hafiz Saeed has been under house arrest -- on and off -- since the Mumbai attacks, much longer than he was held after the Parliament attacks. It seems like Pakistan is making more of an effort against certain previously off-limit militant groups than in the past.

I think that everyone needs to just wait and see what Pakistan does next. The recent arrest of (Afghan Taliban`s second-in command) Mullah Baradar is certainly a positive sign. We`ll just have to see if it was an aberration, or if it actually signals a change in (Pakistan’s) strategy.

Kamna: How will the US benefit from the resumption of Indo-Pak talks?

Kim: One less regional hot-spot for the US to worry about, which means it could then focus more on Afghanistan. Everyone in the region benefits from the resumption of ties.

Kamna: Earlier this month, America`s Director of National Intelligence, Dennis Blair, had stated that Pakistan’s “conviction that militant groups are part of its strategic arsenal to counter India will continue to limit Pakistan’s incentive to pursue an across the board effort against extremism”. It means Blair, in a sense, confirmed that Pakistan does not intend to abandon use of terrorism by extremist groups as a key element of its policy related to India. Comment.

Kim: The statement was before Baradar’s arrest. I am curious to know what he says now. I am still waiting to see how Pakistan tackles the Haqqani network -- or if it simply ignores it.

Kamna: Is Pakistan serious enough to bring to justice the perpetrators of Mumbai terror attack?

Kim: It could be, if enough international pressure is applied.

Kamna: How should India deal with the threat posed by terrorism emanating from Pakistan?

Kim: I`m uncomfortable linking Pune with Pakistan just yet -- I haven`t seen the proof. (Mumbai, obviously, is different). So I`ll say that India should deal with the threat posed by terrorism just like everyone deals with the threat of terrorism -- by training law-enforcement to respond to these threats in a timely manner with proper equipment, by training law enforcement how to pre-empt these threats, by working with other countries, by teaching people to look out for suspicious activity. It`s a sad reality in the world that the threat from terrorism is real everywhere, and is a fact of life in many places, from Pune to Peshawar to Madrid.

First Published: Wednesday, February 24, 2010 - 16:28

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