ISLAMABAD: The November 2008 Mumbai attacks have become the main sticking point in efforts to improve ties between India and Pakistan. So much so that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s maiden visit to Islamabad has been linked to bringing the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks to justice.
The Indian prime minister, who was invited to visit Pakistan in November by President Asif Ali Zardari, is unlikely to undertake the trip this year due to what is being termed as “slow progress” to prosecute those behind the Mumbai attacks.
Pakistan is keen to host the Indian premier next month on the eve of celebrations of the 544rd birth anniversary of Baba Guru Nanak. Be that as it may, Pakistani officials told The Express Tribune that the Indian government had not yet indicated if Singh would be traveling to Islamabad next month.
India’s reluctance to accept President Zardari’s invitation is being attributed to snags in the prosecution of Mumbai attacks suspects currently being tried by an anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi. Diplomatic sources said India was not content with certain recent developments in the case, which have further delayed the prosecution of suspects.
New Delhi had also voiced concerns over the anti-terrorism court’s rejection of a report submitted by a judicial commission, which traveled to India earlier this year in connection with Mumbai attacks investigation.
The anti-terrorism court said the commission’s report could not be used as evidence against the seven Pakistani suspects because commission members were not allowed to cross-examine key witnesses in India.
Indian officials, however, argued that they allowed the eight-member Pakistani judicial commission to perform its functions, according to the terms of references agreed between the two sides.
When contacted, foreign ministry spokesperson Moazzam Ali Khan said Pakistan would welcome the Indian prime minister without divulging whether New Delhi had accepted the invitation.
“Our invitation is there and we are looking forward to his visit,” said Khan.
Islamabad has long been pushing for Singh’s visit, but the Indian premier is believed to have been reluctant to cross the border before the two sides had made a major breakthrough on some of the key issues stalling the peace process. The official stance of the Indian government has also remained that the Indian premier would visit Pakistan when the atmosphere is “ripe” and something “worthwhile” comes out from such a trip.
“India should show some reciprocity and must not hold hostage the process of rapprochement to one single incident,” commented Dr Ishtiaq Ahmed, Jinnah Fellow at the Oxford University, UK.
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