March 2007 News

Kashmir Violence Isn't Terror, Keep It Off The Table: Pakistan TellsIndia

10 March 2007
The Indian Express

New Delhi: When it was announced, the Indo-Pak joint 'anti-terror mechanism' was seen as a breakthrough - a creative way to insulate the ongoing peace process from terrorist attacks. But at its first meeting in Islamabad early this week, New Delhi ran into a familiar wall: Pak officials are said to have told the Indian team that they are not willing to bring 'terrorist acts' in Kashmir within the ambit of this group. Their reason: what is happening in the Valley is a 'freedom struggle' and should not be treated as terrorism. While officials were taken aback at Islamabad invoking what has been for years its traditional rhetoric on the issue - until 9-11 forced it to nuance it - New Delhi is keen on looking ahead. The problem, sources said, is that there is no commitment after the first meeting on whether Pakistan will co-operate on terror groups active in Kashmir. The indication was that if the 'freedom struggle' in Kashmir was to be kept out, then so would Pakistan-based groups involved in the Valley violence. South Block officials, however, say that the diplomatic challenge now is to work around this keep- Kashmir-out line. They underline the fact that holding a meeting of this nature was, in itself, a significant step and that continued engagement was the only way forward. Also, they added, such meetings will curb the instinct to put the peace process on hold every time a terror attack takes place. Still, it is important for India to ensure that all key groups involved in terror attacks on Indian soil are discussed within this framework. Most terror groups active outside the Valley are also responsible for attacks in Kashmir which complicates matters for Indian authorities seeking cooperation from Pakistan security agencies. This contradiction, sources said, will have to be resolved through discussions at higher levels and given that Foreign Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon is travelling to Islamabad next week to set the agenda for the next round of the Composite Dialogue, both sides will take a look at the issues emerging from the first meeting of the anti-terror mechanism. Besides this, India was also taken aback by Pak allegations of Indian involvement in Baluchistan. In fact, a 'Baluchistan dossier' is said to have been handed over to the Indian delegation led by K C Singh, an Additional Secretary in the MEA. It's learnt that the Pakistan team - led by Additional Secretary in the Foreign Office Tariq Osman Haider - alleged that Indian consulates in Afghanistan were recruiting Pakistani youths and arranging for their training. While denying any role in Baluchistan, India has been cautious not to get drawn into a public, diplomatic confrontation by outrightly rejecting the 'evidence' handed over by Pakistan. So India is expected to give a detailed response to Pakistan and hopes that information given by India on terror attacks will also be treated with seriousness and acted upon. The anti-terror mechanism was set up in the wake of the Mumbai blasts after talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf. That meeting, held in Havana, was significant as Foreign Secretary-level talks were postponed as an immediate reaction to the blasts. By setting up this group, both leaders were able to bring the peace process back on track. This strengthened the logic that for all the contradictions under which this group may have to work, it would insulate the peace process from being derailed by terror attacks. With the group now active, at least both sides can talk and exchange information on terrorism. The Challenge Ahead For Pakistan: Not allow the mechanism to collapse and be seen as condoning terror. After all, Musharraf had said on January 12, 2002 that he would not allow 'terrorism in the pretext of Kashmir.' To realise impact of terror on Indian public opinion and show genuine effort at dealing with some of the requests. For India: To keep the peace process going but signal clearly that there is zero-tolerance for terror n Speed up investigations and consistently provide evidence


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