Cong advises PM not to visit Pak

Seeks speeding up of trial of seven accused in 26/11 Mumbai attacks

The Congress party is not in favour of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visiting Pakistan, unless Islamabad delivers on its promise to speed up the trial of the seven accused in 26/11 Mumbai attacks.

The party’s top brass is understood to have conveyed to the prime minister that his visit to Islamabad without any tangible progress in the 26/11 case in Pakistan might turn out to be a “huge political risk” for the party, particularly when the Opposition led by the BJP has upped its ante against the UPA government over “Coalgate”.

The Congress standpoint on the issue was revealed to Deccan Herald, a day after the newspaper carried a news item saying external affairs minister S M Krishna has advised the PM against taking up the visit while giving his assessment of the situation in the neighbouring country. Krishna's meeting with the prime minister took place on September 11, two days after he returned from a visit to Pakistan.

Sources also told this newspaper that Pakistan is unlikely to walk the extra mile to expedite the trial of the Lashkar-e-Toiba commander Zaki Ur Rahman Laqvi and six others in connection with the November 26-29, 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai. The skeptics in Islamabad believe that even if the seven LeT men were tried expeditiously to set the stage for Indian Prime Minister’s visit, New Delhi might ask for more, including investigation into the role of the Pakistan’s state agencies in plotting the 26/11 attacks and arrest of Hafiz Saeed, the suspected mastermind of the carnage.

During external affairs minister’s visit to the neighbouring country last weekend, New Delhi is understood to have declined to budge from its stand that Islamabad should not only expedite the trial of the 26/11 attacks, but must also put Saeed behind bars and investigate the role of the Pakistani “state actors” in plotting the attacks in Mumbai.Sources in the Congress said that it would be “very difficult” for the party to endorse prime minister’s visit to Pakistan “at this juncture”, unless Islamabad did take some significant steps to prove New Delhi’s core concern on terrorism emanating from the neighbouring country.

With the UPA government being beleaguered by a series of scams and the BJP demanding prime minister’s resignation over the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) report on coal block allocation between 2006 and 2009, the Congress is cautious to make it sure that it is not accused of going soft on Pakistan, particularly on the issue of terror.

Politically, the Congress is said to be of the opinion that a visit of the prime minister would be more beneficial to the Pakistan People's Party which leads the government there.

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