Nirupama Subramanian

Madhukar Gupta to hold talks with Interior Secretary Kamal Shah today

Pakistan announces release of 101 Indian prisoners as goodwill gesture

Indian cricket tour may also figure in talks

ISLAMABAD: India may share with Pakistan, at talks between the Home Secretaries on Tuesday, the latest developments in its investigations into the February 2007 Samjhauta Express fire bombing.

Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta arrived here on Monday for the talks that are part of the eight-subject composite dialogue process. The Home Secretaries deal with security issues including terrorism, drug trafficking and fake currency notes, issues relating to prisoners from the two countries in each other’s jails, and visa regulations.

The Pakistani side will be led by Interior Secretary Kamal Shah. In a goodwill gesture ahead of the talks, the Interior Ministry announced that it would release 101 Indian prisoners, 99 of whom are fishermen caught for straying into Pakistani waters.

Rehman Malik, who heads the Ministry, said India must reciprocate, freeing Pakistanis languishing in its prisons. The Indian government recently sent home 29 Pakistani prisoners.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Pakistani officials are expected to reiterate that India share with them the progress in the Samjhauta Express blast, in which 67 people, most of them Pakistanis returning home after visits to relatives in India, were killed.

The recent findings of investigators that the Samjhauta bombing may have been the handiwork of a Hindutva terror group have been received with satisfaction in Pakistan, with the media commenting that it only showed India’s haste in pointing a finger across the border when such incidents happen.

Indian officials associated with the talks told The Hindu in New Delhi that they were ready to share the findings. The uncovering of the possible link between Lt. Col. Prasad Shrikant Purohit, an accused in the Malegaon blast case, and the Samjhauta bombing only proved that the Indian investigations were “open-minded” and took into consideration all kinds of evidence, irrespective of who was involved.

The officials said they would press for similar investigations by Pakistan in cases in which India has provided evidence, most recently in the Kabul Indian embassy bombing.

Also likely to figure in the talks is the Indian cricket team’s tour to Pakistan, which appears uncertain due to reasons of security. The two Secretaries may discuss security arrangements that Pakistan is considering for the January 2009 tour, and also the setting up of an evaluation by Indian security experts closer to the date.

The two officials are also likely to discuss changes in visa rules for the highly restrictive travel between the two countries. The Indian side will reiterate its demand for the extradition of Dawood Ibrahim. New Delhi believes that the underworld don and others wanted for their involvement in terrorist incidents in India live in Pakistan but this is strongly denied by Islamabad.

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