Delhi open to second visit by Pakistan Judicial Commission

India is open to the idea of a Judicial Commission from Pakistan visiting Mumbai again in order to facilitate the speedy trial in Rawalpindi of seven men accused of masterminding the 26/11 attack.

Underlining India’s terrorism-related concerns, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday that an expeditious and successful conclusion of the Rawalpindi trial would be a major confidence building measure that would help bridge the trust deficit and shore up public opinion for normalising ties with Pakistan.

Responding to Mr. Zardari’s invitation to visit Pakistan, Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said the Prime Minister wanted it to be “well prepared.’’ This meant bringing a closure to the Rawalpindi trial with the conviction of all the accused and ensuring the groundwork done in trade is translated into action.

Explaining the rationale of the judicial commission’s second visit to “interview’’ three officials, Mr. Mathai said while the Indian Government was positive about the request, it was still being examined whether this was legally permissible. The earlier visit saw the commission simply taking down their statements, which were struck down by a Pakistani court.

Mr. Zardari, said Mr. Mathai, responded to India’s desire for prosecution of the Pakistani masterminds of 26/11 by reiterating his country’s commitment to bring them to justice and agreed that terrorism posed a threat to peace and security in the region.

Meeting eight days before the Foreign Ministers of both countries are to take stock of the progress achieved so far and chart a road map for the future, Dr. Singh suggested that given the turbulent relationship, a step-by-step graduated approach had the best chance of succeeding.

Fresh from an interaction with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during which Pakistan suggested joint mega projects (days after India, Iran and Afghanistan agreed to develop an alternative trade route into Afghanistan and Central Asia bypassing Pakistan), Mr. Zardari told Dr. Singh that his country could act as a catalyst for expanding trade and commercial ties between South Asia and Central Asia.

‘Long way to go’

Associated Press of Pakistan reported Mr. Zardari as saying that both sides “have covered a lot of ground but we still have to go a long way,’’ while its Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar described the meeting as providing “ample proof that the political leadership of the two countries is committed to improving and normalising ties.”

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