India puts foreign secretaries talks on hold

New Delhi, Aug 31 ( Unhappy with Pakistan’s lack of action against the Mumbai attackers after the Sharm el-Sheikh summit meeting, India has decided to put on hold a meeting between the foreign secretaries who were expected to meet this month.

Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao is unlikely to go to Islamabad for talks with her Pakistani counterpart Salman Basheer before the foreign ministers of the two countries meet in New York later this month, official sources said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yusuf Raza Gilani met at Egypt’s Sharm-el-Sheikh resort July 16 and agreed that foreign secretaries should meet “as often as possible,” and report to their foreign ministers, who would then hold talks on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York.

Pakistan has been pitching for a meeting between the foreign secretaries and has indicated that not holding the talks at this level would effectively scupper the meeting between the two foreign ministers.

More than a month after the controversial Sharm-el-Sheikh joint statement that delinked Pakistan’s actions against terror from the composite dialogue process, no meeting has been scheduled between the foreign secretaries of the two countries. “There is no decision on the dates yet,” a senior official said here Monday.

New Delhi’s reluctance to hold foreign-secretary level talks stems from a growing impression that despite the assurance given to India in Sharm el-Sheikh, Pakistan has virtually taken no action to prosecute the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks, an action that has been sought by the international community including the US.

India provided a sixth dossier to Islamabad a few days ago that focused on the involvement of Hafiz Saeed, the alleged mastermind of the Mumbai carnage, but Islamabad is asking for more proof.

“We feel that concerted action has to be taken by Pakistan. The evidence given by India against Saeed is sufficient and valid in any court of law,” the official said.

“We have been sharing evidence. This evidence has been shared in a painstaking and professional manner. But no action has been taken,” the official said while underlining India’s mounting frustration at Pakistan’s attitude.

“Pakistan should take this evidence, study it seriously with utmost care and take leads forward. This is necessary to complete the investigation and to ensure that justice is done,” the official said.

“The terror from across the border is an issue of tremendous concern and of continuing concern for India,” he said.

After the Sharm-el-Sheikh contentious formulation on delinking terror from the dialogue process created a massive political furore in India, the government has toughened its posture and reverted to the old line about no meaningful talks unless Islamabad takes action against the Mumbai terrorists.

A week ago, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna underlined India’s increasing exasperation with Pakistan’s vacillation and asked it to take “effective steps” to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism. He stressed that a meaningful dialogue will only be possible after Pakistan fulfills its commitment not to allow its territory to be used for terrorist activities against India and bring the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks to justice.