By Vishnu Makhijani
Tehran: India told Pakistan Thursday that expeditiously concluding the trial of the 26/11 Mumbai attack’s perpetrators would be the biggest sub-continental confidence building measure (CBM).
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh conveyed this message to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, on the sidelines of the two-day Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit here, Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai told reporters.
“The prime minister reiterated he desired to have peaceful relations. For this, we have to be patient and move forward in a step-by-step and graduated manner. This is the best way to succeed,” Mathai said.
“The prime minister thanked President Zardari for repeating his gracious invitation to visit Pakistan and said he would like to visit at a suitable time. We would like a like a well-prepared visit,” the foreign secretary said.
“India wishes Pakistan well and is willing to meet Pakistan more than halfway,” Mathai quoted Manmohan Singh as telling Zardari.
Asked about Zardari’s response to the demand for speeding up the 26/11 trial, Mathai quoted the president as reiterating his commitment to bring to justice the perpetrators but saying he was facing a judicial roadblock.
Zardari, Mathai said, “mentioned they have had the processes taken up in the court and the court had taken a different view when the trial resumed. Thus, they have requested a repeat visit” of the judicial commission that come to India to examine the witnesses in the trial of Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone terrorist captured alive in the Nov 26-29, 2008 attack that claimed 166 lives.
On Wednesday, the Indian Supreme Court had confirmed the death sentence handed to Kasab for his role in the attack. However, the Kasab issue did not figure in the meeting, Mathai said.
Asked about Pakistan’s fresh request on the judicial commission, the foreign secretary said: “Earlier, the question was whether our processes would allow the questioning of the three indivduals (Pakistan) had sought. The home minister has said that let the visit take place.”
“This time, we will have to get a judicial view on whether cross-examination is possible,” he said, adding that no time line had been set.
Both leaders also felt that the meeting between the foreign ministers of the two countries early next month “would be an opportunity” to chart out the roadmap for further dialogue.
Trade issues were also discussed, with Zardari saying that given the “great scope for regional economic cooperation, Pakistan can be a catalyst in this process. The prime minister welcomed this approach,” the foreign secretary said.
Responding to a question on the US placing eight more members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, including the son of its founder Hafiz Saeed, on the terror list, Mathai said: “We welcome all steps to combat global terror.”
India says Hafiz Saeed masterminded the Mumbai attack.