India, Pak on course to mend queered pitch

Playing peace: Cricket tie offers a friendly wicket to improve bilateral relations

Islamabad agreed to allow a commission from India to visit Pakistan for carrying out investigations into the November 26, 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai. New Delhi reciprocated by agreeing to allow a judicial commission from Pakistan to come to India in connection with the attacks that had left at least 174 dead and strained the relations between the two neighbours.

A day before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh  plays host to his Pakistani counterpart Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani at the Punjab Cricket Association stadium in Mohali, New Delhi and Islamabad agreed upon co-operation between the investigating agencies in both the countries. They also agreed to have a hotline between the top bureaucrats in charge of internal security in both the countries for ‘real time sharing of information’ on possible terrorist attacks.

“Both sides reiterated their commitment to fight terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and reaffirmed the need to bring those responsible for such crimes to justice,” read a joint statement issued at the end of the two-day parleys between Home Secretary G K Pillai and his Pakistani counterpart Chaudhary Qamar Zaman.

The Home Secretary-level talks were the first of its kind after New Delhi suspended its Composite Dialogue with Islamabad in the aftermath of the attacks in Mumbai. Both sides tried to ensure that the meet set a positive backdrop before Gilani comes to Mohali to join Singh to watch the World Cup cricket semi-final match between India and Pakistan. Pillai called the talks ‘extremely positive’ and a move forward in lessening the trust deficit between the two countries.

He briefed Zaman on the probe into the 2008 Samjhauta Express blast which killed 68 people, mostly Pakistanis. India also agreed to share more information on the case after the investigating agency files report in the court. Islamabad has been asking New Delhi to share information on train blast probe ever since incarcerated monk Swami Aseemanand’s confession about the role of people linked with Sangh Parivar became known.

India has since long been asking Pakistan to speed up the trial for the seven suspected 26/11 plotters in the Anti-Terrorism Court in Rawalpindi. New Delhi has also been keen to send a commission to Pakistan for investigations into the carnage in Mumbai.

“Pakistan conveyed its readiness, in principle, based upon principle of comity and reciprocity, to entertain a commission from India with respect to Mumbai terror attack investigation,” read the joint statement, adding that the modalities and composition of the panel would be worked out through diplomatic channels.

Zaman briefed Pillai about the progress of the trial of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba operative Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and six other 26/11 plotters in Rawalpindi. He is understood to have made it clear that the proceedings in the anti-terrorism court could be expedited and a tight case could be made out against them only if New Delhi allowed a judicial commission from Pakistan to visit India and record and verify the officials, who had recorded the statement of Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone 26/11 terrorist to be caught alive, tried and now on death row in a jail in Mumbai.

New Delhi agreed to let the Pakistani Judicial Commission to come to India and, according to the joint statement, would convey the dates for its visit to Islamabad within four to six weeks.

India and Pakistan also agreed to hold the Home Secretary level talks bi-annually and the next meet will be held in Islamabad. Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik will also visit India to meet his counterpart P Chidambaram on a date, which will be decided later.

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