India Focuses on Terror at Talks with Pakistan

New York, Sep 27 (IANS) The Indian and Pakistani foreign ministers began crucial talks here Sunday with India focusing on terror emanating from across the border and Islamabad still hedging its bets over action against the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack perpetrators.

Hours before External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna met his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mehmood Qureshi at the New York Palace hotel, Islamabad's top diplomat suggested that it was willing to take action, but could not take to court a "half-baked" case against alleged 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed.

The two ministers shook hands and posed for photographs before proceeding for the keenly awaited talks. Their foreign secretaries, Nirupama Rao and Pakistan's Salman Bashir, had a two-hour preparatory round Saturday.

Ahead of the talks, Qureshi said Pakistan was contemplating appointment of veteran diplomat and former foreign secretary Riaz Mohammed Khan as its special envoy on Indian affairs.

"Yes, we are considering very senior former diplomat, former foreign secretary - a gentleman called Riaz Mohd Khan," Qureshi said, referring to reports that Pakistan was to name a special envoy for back-channel diplomacy.

Earlier, Bashir told a TV channel: "We will certainly not hesitate from taking action (against Saeed), but we got to have a case which is legally tenable because if we take a case into court which is a half-baked case and if the court sets him free, you'll say 'collusion', 'drama'.

"No we are not in a mood to collude with terrorists," he said.

But Krishna, who had an informal chat with Qureshi at a working dinner of the SAARC foreign ministers here Saturday night, made it clear that the Mumbai attacks would be the "focal point" of their talks.

"There cannot be any justification whatsoever for such mindless (26/11) terrorist acts. It is our collective responsibility and duty to work together to ensure that terrorists, organisers, perpetrators and supporters of such crimes are brought to justice," Krishna said rallying support of the world community at the UN General Assembly.

At the preparatory talks between Rao and Bashir, the Indian side pressed Pakistan to act speedily and in a transparent manner against those responsible for the 26/11 terror attacks.

The Rao-Bashir talks marked the first high-level contact between the two countries since their prime ministers met at Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on July 16.


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