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Saeed issue snags India-Pakistan talks

  |   Aug. 11, 2009 at 11:00 AM
NEW DELHI, Aug. 11 (UPI) -- The prime ministers of India and Pakistan agreed last month in Egypt to resume their stalled peace talks, but there's been little movement in that direction as events relating to Hafiz Mohammad Saeed have taken precedence.

To New Delhi, Saeed is the force behind Lashkar-e-Toiba, one of the foundations of the Pakistan-based terror network involved in organizing India-specific attacks. Both India and the United States have accused the banned LeT of planning and financing the November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks in which more than 160 people died.

To Islamabad, he is the head of an Islamic charity, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, who was freed by Pakistani courts after prosecution failed to show enough evidence for his continued detention for alleged terror links.

The India-Pakistan peace talks -- which Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousaf Raza Gilani agreed to restart during their meeting in Egypt -- were suspended following the Mumbai attacks.

Saeed, who has denied involvement, was placed under house arrest in Pakistan following those attacks reportedly under pressure from the United States in its efforts to calm the tensions between the two nuclear powers. He was freed in June by a court in Lahore.

Earlier this month the Pakistan Supreme Court indefinitely adjourned hearing petitions for the re-arrest of Saeed.

Pakistani media quoted Saeed's lawyer, A.K. Dogar, as saying that the apex court made its ruling after finding the prosecution for the federal and provincial governments, which filed the petitions, was not prepared for the case since a previous prosecutor had resigned.

Indian media said the ruling came even though the Indian government had given Pakistan yet another dossier containing enough evidence to show Saeed's involvement.

The United States has a stake in getting the India-Pakistan peace talks re-started as it would help ensure calm on the borders between the two countries. That in turn would allow Pakistan to move some of its troops from its border with India and redeploy them along that of Afghanistan to fight the Taliban in support of the U.S.-led NATO offensive.

The United States has said it did not apply any pressure to re-start the India-Pakistan dialogue, but many in the subcontinent remain unconvinced.

In any case, the Saeed issue has put a damper on the so-called composite dialogue, with India saying they can resume only after the Mumbai attackers are brought to justice and Pakistan has provided credible evidence of having dismantled the India-specific terror infrastructure on its soil.

Pakistan insists it is doing all it can to eliminate terror as it is itself a victim.

In a recent interview with the Times of India, Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna said Pakistan must act decisively against Saeed to demonstrate it is truly working in this direction, without which any peace talks would be futile.

"For any talks you have to build a favorable atmosphere, trust needs to be built up. In its absence, regardless of how many times the (prime ministers) or foreign ministers meet or foreign secretaries meet, it will have no impact," Krishna said, adding, "We know for a fact that Hafiz Saeed is the mastermind of Mumbai attacks. We also know that (the) U.N. Security Council has passed a resolution where Hafiz Saeed has been named a terrorist."

He said Pakistan should "bring the same kind of seriousness that they are employing against the Taliban in Swat to the terrorists against India."

Besides Saeed, India is also awaiting the trial in Pakistan of five other LeT suspects in the Mumbai attacks.

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