India, Pakistan cha cha begins

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New Delhi, June 22 (ANI): It is a complicated dance which begins with the second beat, involves coordinated steps like a a step back for every forward step, and, there is no leading partner -- both dancers play equally important roles.

And a dance of this sort begins when Indian Foreign Secretary Ms. Nirupama Rao meets with her Pakistani counterpart, Mr.Salman Bashir, on June 24, while Home Minister Mr.P.Chidambaram, who is going to Islamabad for the SAARC Interior Ministers Conference, also meets with Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik.

The significance is not lost on either side that an Indian Home Minister is making a visit to Islamabad despite India having not forgotten the Mumbai attack of 26/11 and is unwilling to dilute its demand that Pakistan act against the perpetrators of the attack.

India clearly wants action on Hafeez Sayeed, the attack mastermind, and has no intention of sending Ajmal Kasab across the border to expedite that process as has been the demand in some quarters in Pakistan.

Ajmal Kasab, a Pakistani national, was given the death penalty by a special sessions court in Mumbai on May 6 for waging war, murder, abetment to murder, criminal conspiracy and committing terrorist acts.

An Indian official source said: "We have sent them (Pakistan) all the documentation to do with the confession of Ajmal Kasab, including from the magistrate and investigating officer, and we feel it is not necessary for them to appear in court in Pakistan."

The Pakistani side will be well aware that on terrorism, whether it be about the activities of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, or the clandestine support extended by some elements in the intelligence agencies to terror groups waging war against India, they will be talking with a no-nonsense, plain speaking Home Minister. Mr. Chidamabaram is not the Foreign Minister, and his mandate is not external relations.

He has to ensure internal security and undermining that is the activities of terror groups who continue with infiltration of their cadres into India. The sharp as a whip lawyer will be carrying with him documents and some plain-speak, besides what has already been handed over to Pakistani side last week.

The Home Minister's visit will be followed by the visit of the External Affairs Minister S.M.Krishna in mid-July. But the tone and tenor of that visit will be set by the Foreign Secretarys' meetings this week and with the Home Minister's interaction with Mr. Rehman Malik.

For the dialogue between the two neigbours to really have any significance, Pakistan will have to ensure that it means business.

A mere release of fishermen at the Wagah border while providing good optics might satisfy the candle-brigade, it will matter little to South Block. Any spitfire statements from the Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Sayeed or a major infiltration bid or violation of cease-fire will sully this window of opportunity.

At this stage, the peace process, if one can term it that, between India and Pakistan, is top driven. There seems to be little public opinion in favour of resuming talks and bridging the trust deficit that Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh announced in Thimpu.

On its part, India can dispel Pakistani fears of New Delhi a being the prime threat to its existence. Dr. Manmohan Singh has often said that a stable, peaceful and democratic Pakistan is as much in India's interest as in Pakistan's interest. U.S. President Barack Obama has also recently said that (Pakistan's) "obsession with India as the mortal threat to Pakistan has been misguided... their biggest threat right now comes internally".

Can Pakistan be made to understand that cooperation with India in eliminating terror networks within its soil will be the only way forward for its own existence? Is there a will to dismantle the military-jehadi complex that has enshackled the nation, hurtling it into a failed nation category?

If its leaders and its military are able to convince Mr. Chidambaram and bring to the table a concrete set of proposals that show their seriousness of intent, then there is indeed a glimmer of hope for the two nations and the SAARC grouping to wage a war against terror groups that threaten South Asia.

Without that in place, any movement on trade, commerce, cultural cooperation will at best be hesitant steps leading to nowhere, to be revoked at the first instance of a terror strike. By Smita Prakash (ANI)

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