India-Pakistan Agree To Eliminate Terrorism In All Its Forms

10/07/2015 12:52 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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An hour-long discussion between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif on Friday morning led to key breakthroughs including both nations pledging to eliminate "terrorism in all its forms," and agreeing to "expedite" the case against alleged 26/11 mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi.

After stalling talks for over a year, Modi and Sharif met on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit in Ufa, Russia.

Following the meeting, a joint statement said that both countries are ready to discuss all outstanding issues.

"Both leaders condemned terrorism in all its forms and agreed to cooperate with each other to eliminate this menace from South Asia," Pakistan's foreign secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry read out from the statement.

"Both sides agreed to discuss ways and means to expedite the Mumbai case trial including additional information like providing voice samples," India's foreign secretary S Jaishankar read out from the statement.

The two countries agreed to the following measures: A meeting in New Delhi between the National Security Advisors of both nations to discuss all issues connected to terrorism, an early meeting between the DG-BSF (Director General-Border Security Force) and the DG-Pakistan Rangers, the release of fishermen in each other's custody along with their boats within a period of 15 days, and setting up a mechanism for facilitating religious tourism.

Sharif greeted Indian journalists on the ground in Ufa, and told them that he was satisfied with the discussion on Friday. Modi also accepted his invitation to visit Pakistan for the 2016 SAARC Summit.

This was the first time that Sharif and Modi met after the Pakistani leader attended Modi's swearing-in ceremony of May 27, 2014 in New Delhi. The two leaders were present in New York for the U.N. General Assembly session in September, last year, and then the SAARC summit in Kathmandu in November, but they did not hold bilateral talks.

A violent spate of ceasefire violations along the border in Jammu and Kashmir State, last year, led to a severe deterioration in relations between the two neighbours. In August, India called off talks between the Foreign Secretaries of both countries after Pakistan's envoy Abdul Basit held meetings with Kashmiri separatists in Delhi.

Ahead of the meeting in Russia, India accused Pakistan of killing its soldier in another instance of cross-border fire along the Line of Control in Kashmir.

India remains deeply frustrated at Pakistan's failure to prosecute Lakhvi, accused of masterminding the Mumbai attacks, which claimed 166 lives. The alleged Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) commander was granted bail by an anti-terrorism court in Islamabad on Dec. 18 -- just two days after the Taliban attacked school children in Peshawar.

In April, Lakhvi walked out of jail after the Lahore High Court ruled the detention order against him was unjustified. “India wants talks with Pakistan but the present development is unfortunate and disappointing,” Home Minister Rajnath Singh said at the time.

Dubbing the talks as a "breakthrough," the Bharatiya Janata Party said that Pakistan had abandoned its stance of "good terrorism and bad terrorism," and accepted that "terrorism in all its forms is unacceptable."

"Pakistan has accepted the voice samples, which are the basis of our case. They were the evidence we provided, it was visible to the whole world," BJP leader M.J. Akbar told the media.

"Now that Pakistan has accepted this, there is glimmer of light in the relationship between the two countries," he said.

Severely critical of the meeting, the Congress Party said that describing the talks as a "breakthrough" was "laughable," and questioned why Modi met Sharif in the wake of over 200 ceasefire violations in the past 13 months.

Senior Congress Party leader Anand Sharma said that by agreeing to give more evidence, India had justified Pakistan’s "intransigence and lack of intent" to bring the terror attack culprits to justice.

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