Ahead of the Indian and Pakistani foreign ministers' meeting in New York next week, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao on Saturday made it clear that the resumption of dialogue, stalled after the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, depends on Islamabad tackling cross-border terror “squarely”.
Talking to reporters, Rao also stressed that while New Delhi wants better ties with Pakistan, it cannnot shut its eyes to cross-border terror and ceasefire violations from across the border.
“Engagement between India and Pakistan works in the long-term interest of both countries. But we cannnot shut our eyes to the threat of terrorism from across the border,” Rao replied when a Pakistani journalist said that the suspension of dialogue benefited enemies of peace in South Asia.
Underscoring the link between Pakistan's action against anti-India terror infrastructure on its soil and the resumption of composite dialogue, Rao said: “The dialogue process is contingent on creating an atmosphere free from violence.
"The first step we need to take is to squarely address the issue of terrorism,” she stressed.
External Affair Minister SM Krishna will meet his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. “We are in the process of finalising the dates,” said Rao. The meeting could take place Sep 26, reliable sources said.
Krishna will head for New York Sunday to represent India at the high-level segment of the UN General Assembly.
This will be the first high-level formal meeting between India and Pakistan since the prime ministers of the two countries met at Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, July 16 and agreed to the meeting between their foreign ministers in New York during the 64th UN General Assembly.
Rao is also expected to meet her Pakistani counterpart Salmon Bashir in New York to review Islamabad's action against the perpetrators of the Mumbai terrorist attacks that will also dominate the agenda for the foreign ministers' meeting.
Pakistan has pitched for an unconditional resumption of talks, but India has made it clear that meaningful dialogue will not be possible unless Islamabad takes action against the masterminds of the Mumbai mayhem.
“Our expectation from Pakistan is to deal seriously and in a meaningful manner with terrorism directed towards India from their side. This has been communicated to them,” Rao said.
"It's our hope that Pakistan will address these concerns on terrorism, which is targeted at India, so that an outcome can be reached,” she said.
Alluding to recent incidents of ceasefire violations apart from infiltration, Rao asked Pakistan to prevent a repetition of such acts. “It's the responsibility of Pakistan to see that those who are responsible for it don't have the licence to destabilise the situation,” Rao said.
"Rockets have been fired from across the border. DGMOs have been in touch,” she said.
With Washington and New Delhi intensifying pressure over the Mumbai attacks, Pakistan police Thursday lodged two first information reports (FIRs) against suspected Mumbai terror mastermind and Jamaat-ud-Daawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed. The police in Faisalabad said they plan to arrest Saeed soon.
But given the kind of clout Saeed wields in Pakistan's political establishment, it's unlikely Islamabad will give the go-ahead to arrest him.
If Pakistan is able to convincingly demonstrate that it has arrested Saeed, it could be critical in thawing the deepening freeze in bilateral ties between the two estranged neighbours.