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No change in stance on terrorism: India
V S Chandrasekar in Havana
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September 17, 2006 15:30 IST

India said on Sunday that the decision to set up an anti-terrorism institutional mechanism has made possible the resumption of dialogue process with Pakistan.

It added that all issues will be taken up, including the long-standing demand for extradition of underworld don Dawood Ibrahim [Images] and Hizbul leader Syed Salahuddin, both residing in that country.

However, New Delhi turned down suggestions that there has been a 'shift' in its stance in ackowledging that Pakistan is a victim of terrorism and made it clear that there cannot be a guarantee that all kinds of terrorist acts would come to an end with the setting up of the mechanism.

The mechanism, which will identify and implement counter-terrorism initiatives and investigations, is contained in the joint press statement of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [Images] and President Pervez Musharraf [Images] given on Saturday.

Foreign Secretary-designate P Shivshankar Menon told journalists that 'this is a new step. We have not done this before with Pakistan. We have had discussions but not in terms of an institutional mechanism'.

"This is what  made it possible to resume the dialogue (with Pakistan), take the peace process forward and we see this seems to be the way forward with Pakistan. Its functions are clear. We have got the mandate. It is to identify the kind of terrorism and organisations. What it will be, is for the two sides to discuss and implement it," he added.

Asked whether the long-standing demand for extradition of criminals like Dawood Ibrahim and Hizbul Mujahideen leader Syed Salahuddin would be met by Pakistan with the setting up of the mechanism in the face of its stand that India should provide evidence, Menon, currently High Commissioner in Islamabad, said, "All these issues will be taken up in this institutional mechanism."

About the deportation of wanted criminals, he said, "Let us see."

On whether the joint mechanism reflected a shift in policy as New Delhi had blamed Islamabad for Mumbai blasts, Menon said the way India saw it was that there were elements in Pakistan fomenting violence in India and there were other ways of dealing with these forces.

"I don't think it represents a change in stance. I don't think the government of India blamed Pakistan. We are in the process of still identifying these elements. Our stance on terrorism is clear. There are elements in Pakistan who are responsible for terrorism in India. This mechanism is a new step and a new way forward," he said.

The Foreign Secretary-designate said the basic goals were clear and the effort was to create an atmosphere free from violence and settlement of all issues bilaterally and build a relationship.

Menon did acknowledge that Pakistan government was facing the threat of terrorism and civilian leaders had been victims of it. "India has been facing terrorism for a long time. Both of us either individually or together have been facing it. We did not have a collective mechanism and have just set one up. We will see how it evolves and how it will work. Let us not overinterpret it," he said in reply to questions whether it would be effective.

Asked whether Pakistani intelligence agency ISI, blamed for instigating terrorist violence in India, would be part of the mechanism, Menon said the difficulty while terrorism is discussed is that it is not just one aspect of terrorism - "Pakistan government has suffered terrorism and Pakistani civilian leaders have been victims. Depending on the nature of the violence we do our job and investigate. If there is evidence, we will take it up with them."

To a question whether a major act of terrorist violence could again derail the peace process sought to be resumed and whether there could be guarantees that the dialogue process would be insulated, Menon said the two countries were trying to achieve this major understanding but it would be difficult for India to take the process forward in case of violence.

"What we are trying to do by talking to Pakistan is to prevent such incidents. Our goal remains to limit violence. How its success will be, we have to see. There cannot be guarantees. What we are trying to see is that there are certain forms of terrorism and how to resolve them. We are trying our best to deal with the terrorism problem. If we can cut down terrorism in a small way it is worth it," he said.

Asked whether the Sir Creek and Siachen issues would be resolved within six months in the wake of the joint statement directing consultations on the matter in November, he recalled that the prime minister has said 'we will be certainly trying our best. I can't say that this will be done by this time'.

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