India walked the extra mile during the home secretary-level talks on Wednesday to accommodate Pakistani limitations in delivering action on the Mumbai terror attacks and allowing questioning of the suspects. Pakistan has agreed to a visit by an Indian commission but made it clear that this panel would only have access to police investigators, not witnesses or suspects. The Pakistani offer fell short of the Indian requirement that — quite like the questioning of US national David Headley — was aimed at collecting information to improve the understanding of the actors involved in the 26/11 conspiracy. But given the enthusiasm and the international attention that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s diplomatic initiative had achieved, India’s security establishment had to refine its position to be in tune. “Yes, there is a complication on the commission. It’s not what we wanted,” a source familiar with the behind-the-scenes discussions admitted.
Sources in the Pakistani delegation matched this version, insisting that they hadn’t agreed to the Indian team going around talking to suspects or witnesses.
The joint statement issued at the end of the two-day talks skipped mentioning the Pakistani reluctance. Instead, it said the modalities and composition of the commission would be worked out through diplomatic channels. Government sources suggested this was done to ensure there were no red faces when Manmohan Singh and Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani met at the Mohali’s cricket stadium and later, at dinner. Otherwise, one source said, there has been no particular development since November 2010 when Home Minister P Chidambaram cautioned people that Islamabad had not delivered on its promise to bring to justice those who perpetrated the attacks. It was in this spirit of conciliation that the Pakistani delegation was given information on the on-going Samjhauta Express blast case investigation. Much of this information was in public domain but had not been officially released even in India.
On Wednesday, the government sought to bridge this information gap by issuing a Press statement to formally announce the breakthrough in investigations and the arrest of Swami Aseemanand in December last year.