A statement issued at the end of the first day of talks between the Indian and Pakistani foreign secretaries remained bland and revealed little – Official spokesperson in the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, Syed Akbaruddin, said the secretaries and their delegations had “two full sessions of detailed discussions covering all aspects of the agenda under the items Peace and Security as well as Jammu and Kashmir.”
But it was Home Minister P Chidambaram, speaking on the sidelines of a cabinet meeting, who explained the context of the talks. “His (Abu Hamza’s) arrest is helping us connect the dots about the people behind the Mumbai attacks. We know who trained (the attackers in Mumbai); we know who controlled them when the operation was going on. We know how the control room functioned. Pakistan has repeatedly said it was non-state actors who operated in attacking Mumbai. But after the evidence emerged following the testimony of Ajmal Kasab, it clearly points to state actors. Hamza’s interrogation reveals that the handlers engaged in the Mumbai attacks were clearly state actors. We might have got pseudonyms. But there is no doubt as to their status now,” said Chidambaram.
The interrogation of Abu Hamza, the mastermind behind the 2008 Mumbai attacks, somewhat eclipsed the talks. But the upside was that India and Pakistan were still talking. At the end of the two sessions on Wednesday, Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai and Pakistani counterpart Jalil Abbas Jilani agreed to resume the talks tomorrow in the morning with a view to completing all the items scheduled for consideration.
According to official sources, India flagged its concern in the meeting over anti-India terror activities being planned from Pakistani soil in the backdrop of the arrest of the Laskhar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorist who has revealed that he, along with LeT founder Hafiz Saeed, was in the control room in Karachi during the 26/11 Mumbai carnage in which 166 people were killed.
The foreign secretaries were assisted by senior officials of both the sides, including the Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan Sharat Sabharwal and Pakistan’s High Commissioner-designate to India Salman Bashir.
India is also understood to have reiterated its concern over the slow pace of Mumbai terror attacks trial in Pakistan.
The two sides also talked about confidence-building measures, including in the trade, travel and nuclear fields. Important trade related memoranda of understanding still have to be signed by the two trade secretaries. There is no evidence that revelations from Hamza’s interrogation are so grave that talks might have to be called off.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 5th, 2012.