Pakistan on Thursday indicated that terrorism was not a part of the agreed agenda for the Foreign Secretary-level engagement with India that is expected to take place this month and the focus would be on Jammu & Kashmir, peace and security, and promotion of friendly exchanges.
This was the categorical response of Foreign Office spokesperson Tehmina Janjua to a specific question on whether the fresh evidence provided by India on the Mumbai 2008 terror attacks would be discussed at the Foreign Secretary talks. In response, she flagged the agreed outcome of the Indo-Pak Foreign Secretary-level talks in Thimphu on February 6 on the basis of which the dialogue process was resumed.
Asked if Pakistan was open to discussing the fresh evidence being cited by India, Ms. Janjua’s response was that matters relating to terrorism had been discussed at the Home/Interior Secretary-level engagement and whatever New Delhi provides as fresh evidence or new information is sent to the Interior Ministry where it is examined on the basis of ground realities.
Part of the delay in fixing the date for the foreign secretaries’ meeting is being attributed to what Pakistan views as India’s "renewed fixation" with terrorism in the wake of the information that came out during the trial of Chicago businessman Tahawwur Rana, accused of helping David Coleman Headley in planning the Mumbai terror attack.
The assertion of the Foreign Office on Wednesday that Kashmir was the core issue for the forthcoming dialogue is being seen in this context. This assertion was made by the Foreign Office after Secretary Salman Bashir met representatives of the Kashmiri leadership here for a preparatory round of consultations for his meeting with Indian counterpart Nirupama Rao.
Officially, the Foreign Office maintained that the dialogue process was on course with Ms. Janjua repeatedly stating that Pakistan was in a "serious, substantive engagement mode" with India, and refusing to be provoked into sending any kind of negative message to New Delhi through the media. As to whether any new Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) would be considered at the forthcoming meeting, she said "we hope to review the existing CBMs and see what are the possibilities otherwise’’.
To a question on whether Pakistan would welcome any U.S. role in improving relations with India, she said while Islamabad appreciated American encouragement to both countries in this regard, the dialogue process was on track. And, according to Pakistan, the substantive point of progress was the acceptance by both New Delhi and Islamabad that dialogue is the only way forward.
About Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai’s statement that the Indian footprint in his country would not have an adverse impact on Af-Pak relations, Ms. Janjua maintained that India had undertaken some developmental activities in Afghanistan. Further, she pointed out that Pakistan has always been urging the international community to help in this endeavour as development of Afghanistan was critical for the return of peace and security.