Terrorism was the key focus of a high-level meeting held Thursday between Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao and her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir. The meeting was part of a formal "composite dialogue" launched in 2004 to discuss issues including cross-border terrorism, the disputed border region of Kashmir, and the sharing of river waters.
India broke off the dialogue following the Mumbai terror attacks in November 2008 that left 183 people dead and thousands more injured. Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the Pakistan-based terror group is believed to be behind the attacks.
At the meeting, India communicated its concerns about the unfettered activities of terror groups such as LeT, Jaish-e-Muhammed (JeM), Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI) and others on Pakistani territory. Rao called on her Pakistani counterpart to "eliminate all terrorist groups operating from their soil, regardless of their ideology or agenda." Although Rao recognized some steps taken by Pakistani authorities to help try to convict the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks, she noted that the efforts "did not go far enough to unravel the full conspiracy behind the Mumbai attack and to award exemplary punishment to all culprits."
India also handed over three dossiers to Pakistan that detailed activities of anti-India jihadi groups based in Pakistan. The dossiers named 34 terrorists wanted by India, including LeT founder and Mumbai attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed, and Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) leader Abdur Rehman Makki. JuD, an Islamic charity, serves as a front for LeT operations.
The dossiers further detailed activities of top al Qaeda commander Ilyas Kashmiri. Kashmiri has been charged in the U.S. for his role in the Mumbai attacks. India also demanded Pakistan hand over fugitive leaders of the Indian Mujahideen, Asif Raza Khan and Riaz Bhatkal. The Indian Mujahideen is suspected to be behind a terror attack February 13 in the western Indian city of Pune.
Rao made a reference to Hafiz Saeed's speeches supporting jihadi attacks against India, including his incendiary speech earlier this month at a "Kashmir solidarity" rally in which the LeT leader dismissed the Mumbai attacks saying, "Ek Bombay Kya Hota Hai (One Mumbai is not enough)" and called for waging more jihadi attacks. At the same rally, Saeed's deputy Abdur Makki is quoted saying, "Muslims dying of thirst would drink blood of India," a reference to the ongoing water dispute between the South Asian neighbors and Pakistani anxieties that Indian dams on shared rivers in Kashmir deplete their water flow into Pakistan.
Bashir rejected India's dossiers as "literature, not evidence," but later retracted his statement. He did express frustration about the emphasis on terror exported from his own country, noting attacks at home have killed 5,366 Pakistani civilians in the past two years.
Bashir also made allegations of Indian support for insurgent activity in Pakistan's southwest province of Balochistan.
Rao also called on Pakistan to follow up "on the leads that have emerged following the arrest in the United States of David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Hussain Rana."
The Obama administration favors a resumption of talks between the nuclear-armed neighbors given the expanded war in Afghanistan in light of the recent troop surge. U.S. policymakers hope that a thawing of tensions on the Indo-Pak border will make Pakistan more willing to shift military forces away from its eastern border with India to its western flank, and thereby aid the U.S. and its allies in fighting Taliban, al Qaeda, and other insurgents along the mountainous Pakistan-Afghanistan border region.