New Delhi, June 26: The mid-July meeting between the Indian and Pakistani foreign ministers has been put off, a day after the arrest of the alleged tutor of the 26/11 gunmen with Saudi Arabian help was announced in Delhi.
Officially, South Block attributed the talks deferral to a clash in dates with the July 19 presidential election. But sources claimed it signalled the bilateral frost that had set in after Abu Jundal’s purported revelation of the depth of involvement of Pakistan “state actors” in the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
The meeting between foreign ministers S.M. Krishna and Hina Rabbani Khar is now likely to take place either in end-August or September in Islamabad. But foreign secretaries Ranjan Mathai and Jalil Abbas Jilani will meet as scheduled in New Delhi on July 4-5.
“Please do not think that the scheduling issue is reflective of substantive problems. There are none and so do not look for them,” said foreign ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin, although he conceded that Delhi had asked for the postponement.
He said that apart from scheduling issues “there have been changes that we are all aware of in Pakistan, and these of course will be factored in both by their side and our side while finalising a new date”.
Sources said Delhi was keenly watching how things were panning out in Islamabad under its new Prime Minister, Raja Pervez Ashraf. The perception was he might not be as “dovish” about bilateral ties as predecessor Yousuf Raza Gilani, with whom Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had a good rapport.
“We still do not know where the new Pakistan Prime Minister stands on various issues but we are positive,” a source said.
The sources said Singh and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari had agreed in their April meeting the countries needed to work out a joint strategy to combat terror, else it would keep haunting bilateral ties.
But while India was committed to a peaceful Pakistan and Afghanistan, a similar commitment was lacking from Islamabad, the sources said. In that sense, the deferral of the Krishna-Khar talks was a message to Islamabad.
“There exists a wide gulf in how New Delhi and Islamabad perceive the problem of terror. We want Pakistan to wage war on terror across the board without being selective. It is something they have failed to do, Lashkar founder Hafiz Saeed being a case in point,” a source said.
To add to this, Jundal’s arrest and his purported revelations have soured things somewhat. It has also given hawks in the Indian home and foreign ministries a stick to beat Singh’s line that Pakistan is also a victim of terror. The hawks believe that Islamabad has delivered much in terms of trade but very little of what it promised on terror.
Indian government sources denied that Pakistan had played any positive role in Jundal’s arrest. While he was in Saudi custody for over a year before he was put on a plane to India, Islamabad apparently tried hard to convince authorities that he should not be handed over to New Delhi, the sources said.
“We will be in a better situation to reveal what Jundal knows about the role of ‘state actors’ in 26/11 after three-four days of interrogation. But Pakistan’s ISI betrayed nervousness when it pressured the Saudis to not hand over Jundal to us, which leads us to believe the man knows a lot,” a source said.
The sources claimed 30-year-old Jundal knew the ISI operatives who were part of the conspiracy and how these “state actors” had helped the Lashkar carry out the Mumbai attacks.
“He can spill the beans. This is the main reason why the Pakistan agencies exerted immense pressure on the Saudis not to hand over Jundal to India,” a source said.