“Samjhauta Express case cannot be equated with Mumbai terror attacks”

A day before Foreign Secretary-level talks with Pakistan, India expressed cautious optimism about the outcome.

India on Saturday also insisted that the involvement of its nationals in the Samjhauta Express blasts that killed 42 Pakistanis did not dilute its accent on Islamabad winding up the terror machine operating from its soil and prosecuting the masterminds behind the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

“We are trying to see how we can take the dialogue process forward. We need to go into this round with reasonable expectations and try to see how a graduated yet forward-looking approach would work. We are cautiously optimistic,'' said sources.

While this meeting of Foreign Secretaries will try to examine how the new approach would unlock the dialogue process, a similar interaction in the coming months would set the stage for Foreign Minister-level talks.

The sources, however, repeatedly cautioned against heightened expectations. “Obviously one meeting will not suddenly lead to the solution of all issues. But it would help pave the way for solutions [to disputes such as Siachen and Sir Creek and increasing trade and people-to-people contacts]. We are hoping Pakistan would approach the talks with the same spirit.''

Asked whether Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi's statement on Kashmir would overshadow the talks, the sources pointed out that such an observation was par for the course on a day observed by Islamabad as Kashmir Solidarity Day. “But how it will impact the talks we don't know,'' they added.

The sources did not think that the Samjhauta Express case could be equated with the Mumbai attacks. “There is no comparison in terms of the scale of attacks, the number of people killed and the fact that the Mumbai perpetrators came from across the border. It would not be fair or correct to draw a comparison.''

Asked why the two sides were going to talks now, the sources said India was very clear that dialogue was the best way forward to restore normality.Declining to set a time frame for resolving all issues with Pakistan, the sources said terror would be a major component in the talks but the “best way forward is to engage on issues concerning both. We are not shying away from discussing all outstanding issues.'' The setting of Thimphu in April last year enabled the two Prime Ministers to ask their Foreign Ministers and Foreign Secretaries to address the trust deficit. The same setting now offers an opportunity to unlock the dialogue process. Will there be a second Thimphu thaw?

More In: National | News