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India, Pakistan Resume Sports Links, But Talks Remain Elusive Between Nuclear Rivals

When cricket teams from India and Pakistan met on the pitch this week, it raised hopes of a thaw in relations that were strained in last years terror attacks on the Indian commercial capital Mumbai. India blamed those attacks on suspected Pakistani-based terrorists. New Delhi is ruling out any talks with Pakistan until its neighbor and nuclear-armed rival takes substantive action to prevent Pakistani-based terrorists from attempting further attacks on India.  

India's victory over Pakistan Wednesday in a warm-up match in England was the first time the two national teams faced each other since last November's terrorist attack on India's commercial capital, Mumbai.

But Indian government officials are reluctant, despite the resumption of some sporting ties, to re-start formal dialog.

External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna was asked by reporters Friday if India plans to resume talks with Pakistan to try to resolve issues confronting the region, such as their Kashmir territorial dispute.

"Well, not unless they take concrete measures to prevent terrorist attacks emanating from the soil of Pakistan aimed against India," he said.

Officials in New Delhi and Islamabad are communicating through their diplomats to determine how and when talks can resume. Such discussions involving their top envoys in both capitals took place Wednesday and Thursday.

There are still some issues that need to be resolved if talks are to take place.  India is upset with the Lahore High Court decision to release from custody the founder of the group blamed for the Mumbai attacks. The court ruled there was not enough evidence to continue holding Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, the founder of Laskhar-e-Taiba (and leader of Jamaat-ud-Dawa), who India contends is the mastermind of last year's assault on Mumbai.  

India and Pakistan have traded accusations that the other is not cooperating sufficiently in providing evidence for investigations into the Mumbai attacks.

The Indian foreign minister says Saeed's release demonstrates Islamabad is not serious about combating terrorism.

Meanwhile, Delhi Police have arrested an alleged Pakistani militant, Abdul Madni. The government says he has links to Saeed. Video of the suspect, shown surrounded by heavily armed police, was aired here Friday.

Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram credited Madni's arrest to good intelligence and investigative work by the police. But he rebutted news reports linking the suspected Lashkar-e-Taiba operative to an increased security alert for the city of Hyderabad.

"Let me assure everyone there is no need for any alarm that there is going to be any imminent terrorist attack," said Chidambaram.

The home minister says officials in Hyderabad decided to heighten their alertness following information Indian authorities relayed to the state governments. Chidambaram did not elaborate. Media reports say the Intelligence Bureau has warned of a major attack, possibly in the southern part of the country.


Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.
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