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Terrorism to Dominate Agenda at Indo-Pakistan Foreign Ministers Meeting

  • Linda Blake

Terrorism is expected to top the agenda later this week when India and Pakistan's foreign ministers meet in Islamabad.

The meeting in Islamabad between India's and Pakistan's foreign ministers is the latest in a series of trust-building talks that resumed in February.

And again the focus is on terrorism. India blames the Pakistan-based group Lashkar-e-Taiba for the terrorist attack on Mumbai in 2008. Pakistani officials say India needs to get beyond its focus on Mumbai and move on to other issues –- notably violence in the disputed territory of Kashmir.

Last month in Islamabad, Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao told reporters that terror would not derail the dialogue.

"We must deny terrorist elements any opportunity to derail the process of improvement of relations between our two countries," she said.

Satish Chandra is a former Indian deputy national security adviser. He says India's agenda is clear -- to get Pakistan to crack down on anti-Indian terrorist groups on its soil.

"A much harder approach to Pakistan is called for than the one we are adopting right now," Chandra said. "The mollycoddling has to stop."

Chandra says Pakistan's army has to root out elements that support terror planning against India.

"The Pakistan Army is enormously capable and they can act," he added. "But they do not wish to act because they regard these people as strategic assets."

Popular opinion in India matches Chandra's call for a harsher attitude toward Pakistan. Many Indians say it is only a matter of time before Pakistani-based terrorists strike India again.

But Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has consistently affirmed his commitment to Indo-Pakistani dialogue. And there's hope that better relations will lead to more trade.

Since the attacks on Mumbai, cabinet level commerce meetings between the two countries have stopped, and trade has fallen.

The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry or FICCI reports that trade is down about 35 percent.

Manish Mohan is a joint director of the South Asia branch of FICCI. He says increased trade could directly improve peoples' lives in Pakistan.

"I will tell you the cost of pharmaceutical in Pakistan is 10 times what it is in India," Mohan said. "Why can't we supply those basic drugs and formulations to Pakistan? It makes sense for them to import it from India. And they are importing those things twice the price, five times the price from other countries."

Mohan says this could also offer a financial boost to Indian pharmaceutical suppliers.