India on Saturday rejected Pakistan's attempt to link Mumbai attacks to the Samjhauta Express blast, saying there was "no comparison" between the two incidents and rubbished the contention that the pace of probe into the cross-border train attack had been slow.
As Pakistan questioned why probe into the Samjhauta Express blast was incomplete even after four years of the incident, India saw it as an attempt to put it on the backfoot at on Sunday's meeting of foreign secretaries in Thimphu which it is approaching with "cautious optimism" and "forward-looking" attitude.
On the eve of the talks between Nirupama Rao and her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir, Islamabad on Saturday came out with a provocative statement saying that India's handling of the Samjhauta Express train bombing case showed that it lacked "courage to unearth culpability of Hindu extremists".
"India seems to be lacking courage to unearth culpability of Hindu extremists and their links with some Indian Army personnel," foreign office spokesman Abdul Basit said in a statement in Islamabad.
India's handling of the 2007 Samjhauta Express bombing case "doesn't inspire much hope", he said.
The spokesman emphasised that India "needs to bridge the gap between what it says and what it does".
However, sources said that in the case of the Mumbai attacks the leads were "so direct" and "involvement so clear" that probe could move faster but the same was not true for the Samjhauta Express blast incident.
"Each investigation is separate and different. It depends on the leads the investigators get. It is not correct or fair to compare the two incidents," the sources said, while reacting to questions raised by Pakistan over the pace of probe into February 2007 blast in which 68 people were killed.
While pointing to the clear leads in the Mumbai attack case, the sources asked why the trial was so slow and why several of those accused were still roaming free despite evidence against them provided by India.
They also referred to the imposition of sanctions by the US on Lashkar-e-Taiba operative Arif Qasmani for involvement in the Samjhauta blast under UN Security Council Resolution 1267 and questioned why Pakistan had not conducted any investigation against him.
On the other hand, the sources noted that the trial in the Mumbai case in India had been completed in the trial court as there were clear leads.
Investigation into the Mumbai attacks is also not complete, particularly on the Pakistani side, as several accused continue to roam freely, the sources said.
Pakistan is expected to raise the issue of Samjhauta probe at Sunday's meeting and the Indian side is ready for it but it does not want to pre-judge whether it would upset the talks.
India is also expecting Pakistan to raise the Kashmir issue. On its part, India would take up the issue of cross-border terrorism and seek an update on the Mumbai attacks case and efforts, if any, made by Pakistan to dismantle the terror infrastructure.
"During a dialogue, both sides raise the issues of concern to them. Surely, Pakistan will raise issues that concern it, we will raise issues that concern us," a source said.
The sources made it clear that India, as declared by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, is willing to discuss all outstanding issues with Pakistan in a step-by-step manner if its concerns on terrorism are addressed.
"We are clear that dialogue is the best way forward. So we need to engage Pakistan and we are doing so," a source said.
The sources noted that there are a number of "doables" and these were proposed at the foreign ministerial meeting in Pakistan in July. Islamabad, however, had adopted the "all or nothing approach," they said.
Seeking to play down expectations from Sunday's meeting, the sources said "one meeting of the foreign secretaries is not going to lead to solutions". It, however, could pave the way for solutions.
India is approaching the talks, which are basically "exploratory" in nature, with "cautious optimism," the sources said, hoping Pakistan would also move in with the same spirit.