Pak allows India to question 26/11 suspects

Both nations also decided to set up a hotline for info sharing with respect to terror threats.

Updated: Mar 30, 2011, 00:14 AM IST

New Delhi: After dilly dallying for months,
Pakistan on Tuesday agreed to allow an Indian commission to visit
the country in connection with 26/11 Mumbai terror attack case
probe there, setting a positive backdrop for the Prime
Ministerial meeting in Mohali on Wednesday.

Pakistan, which had been dragging its feet on allowing
Indian investigators on its soil in relation to probing the
source of the Mumbai attack, expressed its readiness during a
meeting between Home Secretaries of the two countries which
ended on Tuesday.

A joint statement issued at the end of the meeting
reiterated the commitment of the two sides to fight terrorism
in all its forms and manifestations and reaffirmed the need to
bring those responsible for such crimes to justice.

"The meeting was extremely positive. It had moved
forward in reducing trust deficit (between the two countries)
significantly," Home Secretary Gopal K Pillai said after the

The joint-statement listed various areas of cooperation
including countering drug and human trafficking, streamlining
visa procedure, fake currency, cyber crimes and maritime

"Pakistan side provided updates on the ongoing trial and
investigation in Pakistan on the Mumbai terror attacks.

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," the statement said.

Modalities and composition in this connection will be
worked out through diplomatic channels, it said.

The dates for the visit of the judicial commission from
Pakistan in connection with Mumbai terror attack trial will be
conveyed by India within four to six weeks.

The National Investigation Agency in India and
Pakistan`s Federal Investigation Agency will continue to
cooperate in the Mumbai terror attack investigations, it said.

On the issue of providing to India the voice samples of
alleged masterminds of the attack, sources said Pakistan
officials have said that a lower court had rejected their case
in this regard. An appeal has been filed with the High Court
and a positive outcome is expected, New Delhi has been told.

The joint statement said both the 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.

Official sources said a proposal has been put forth to
relax norms for issuance of visa to journalists, businessmen,
senior citizens and patients coming for medical treatment.

Under the proposal, the visa issued for journalists,
businessmen, senior citizen or patients travelling for
treatment will not be city specific and visa holders would be
allowed to travel across the country, official sources said.

The Indian side also proposed to relax norms for people
who have a valid visa and want to travel again within the span
of two years by removing time-consuming security background
check process which is done from here.

The Indian High Commission in Pakistan will be empowered
to issue necessary permissions to such travellers, they said.

The talks which were led by Pillai from Indian side and
Qamar Zaman Chaudhary, Interior Secretary of Pakistan, also
decided to set-up a Hotline between the two Home Secretaries
to facilitate real time information sharing with respect to
terrorist threats.

Pakistan also invited Indian Home Secretary for next
round of talks which has been accepted.

The delegations also exchanged views on the decisions
taken in the last round of Talks held in Islamabad in 2008.

"It was agreed that it was important for both sides to
remain engaged on outstanding issues and henceforth the
Home/Interior Secretary level Talks would be held
bi-annually," the statement said.

During the talks, India updated Pakistan with
information on the on-going Samjhautha Express blast case

"It was also agreed that after filing of report in the
court, updated information will be shared with the concerned
Pakistan authorities," the statement said.

Both sides shared concerns on the illicit drug
trafficking and agreed to hold talks between DG, Narcotics
Control Bureau and DG, ANF of Pakistan annually to control the
menace, it said. India accepted the invitation for DG NCB to
visit Pakistan in May 2011 for talks with DG, ANF.

"The MoU on Drug Demand Reduction and Prevention of
Illicit Trafficking in Narcotics Drugs/Psychotropic Substances
and Precursor Chemicals and related matters as finalised will
be formally signed at the next DG level meeting of NCB-ANF in
May 2011," the statement said.

It was agreed all the prisoners and fishermen who have
completed their sentences in respective countries will be
released on April 15 this year. A complete list of all the
prisoners serving in each others` custody will be exchanged by
both sides on July 1, 2011.

"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 19-23, 2011 in Pakistan," it said.

"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 statement said.

The group will submit report before next round of talks.
Government sources said visa issues, including multiple-
entry five-year visa for people above 65 years old, are
expected to be finalised within six months and before the next
meeting of the Home Secretaries of the two countries.

Sources said around 150 Indian fishermen languishing in
Pakistani prisons are expected to be released by April 15
while India is expected to release 29 Pakistan prisoners as
soon as possible.

The Indian side raised the issue of Lashkar-e-Taiba
founder Hafiz Sayeed`s anti-India statements, activities of
underworld don Dawood Ibrahim and other terrorists in which
the Pakistani side promised to do the needful.

The issue of Prisoners of War was also figured in the
meeting but the Pakistan Interior Secretary said that he did
not have the mandate to discuss the issue and it could be
probably discussed at the meeting of Foreign Secretary level.

Sources said if relations between India and Pakistan
normalise, the issue of allowing Foreign Direction Investment
from that country could be discussed at future meetings of the
two countries.