India and Pakistan's top diplomats met today for the nuclear neighbor's first formal talks since the Mumbai terror attack more than a year ago, a preliminary summit that resumed a basic dialogue but did not accomplish anything substantive.
As expected the two countries brought two different agendas to the New Delhi meeting, with India focusing almost exclusively on terrorism and Pakistan looking for a wider dialogue that includes the disputed territory of Kashmir.
U.S. officials have encouraged India -- the somewhat less willing partner in this new dialogue -- to come to the table, hoping a thaw on Pakistan's eastern border would allow Pakistan's overstretched army to focus on Taliban safe havens near the Afghan border. The U.S. says it needs Pakistan to crack down on Taliban groups that use Pakistan as a safe haven if the U.S. surge in Afghanistan is going to be successful.
But the terrorism that India is most worried about involves a jihadi group called Lashkar-e-Taiba, which even Pakistan admits was responsible for the Mumbai attacks. The United States recently declared that Lashkar-e-Taiba was expanding its operations to include targets in Europe.
Indian officials accused Pakistan of failing to crack down on the group, pointing out that immediately after these talks were first discussed, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the supposed charity arm behind Lashkar-e-Taiba, reemerged in public.
The group sent out its first press releases in almost a year and held multiple rallies to mark a Pakistani holiday that celebrates solidarity with Muslim Kashmiris. Indian officials accuse Pakistan of unleashing the group into the public as a way to send a message to India that cross-border attacks -- which India says are state-sponsored -- were still possible.
One of those rallies was led by Hafiz Saeed, the head of Jamaat-ud-Dawa and the accused mastermind of the Mumbai attacks. He also sat for a recent interview with al Jazeera.
India Still Wants Pakistani Terror Crackdown
Specifically mentioning that rally, India's Interior Minister Nirupama Rao told reporters in New Delhi after the 90-minute summit today that it was the "duty of the government of Pakistan to take effective action to dismantle and put an end to all these organizations," most notably Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jamaat-ud-Dawa.
"We have once again reiterated the need for strong action against Hafiz Saeed, who has ranted and raved about a violent agenda against India… for the need for there to be controls put on his activities," Rao said.
Pakistan's chief negotiator, Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir, strongly refuted Rao's statement, telling reporters that India's continuing focus on Saeed and on terrorism was limiting any hope the two countries could improve their relationship.
"We got brief backgrounders which were supposed to give us evidence pertaining to Hafiz Saeed's activities. We looked at this with relevant authorities in the government and the fact is that it was more literature than evidence – evidence in the legal sense," Bashir said. "If we keep on naming one individual, or one incident or the other, and predicate everything else on that, we will be caught endlessly in a tangle and not be able to move forward."
Bashir pointed out that Pakistan had put seven suspects in the Mumbai massacre on trial and had done "everything that could be done" to investigate the links with Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Indian officials do acknowledge that Pakistani authorities responded to initial requests to investigate, especially lauding work done in Karachi to find where and how the terrorists trained. But Indian officials also want Pakistan to push harder, accelerating the trial of the seven accused and locking up Saeed for good.
Bashir continued to defend Pakistan, noting it was the single largest victim of terrorism. "We have suffered many hundreds of Mumbai's," he said, blaming militants from Afghanistan. "For anyone to think that Pakistan will be dismissive of this problem, he does not have his facts right. Pakistan's number one priority is to deal with terrorism."
Rao said the Indian delegation handed over three dossiers with evidence about the Mumbai attacks, the militant leader Ilyas Kashmiri, and "fugitives from Indian law who are residing in Pakistan." She also said she asked Pakistan to investigate two separate claims of responsibility made by Pakistani groups for a recent attack in Pune, India.
Pakistan wants the resumption of a more wide-ranging dialogue, and raised at least three of its main issues with India: Kashmir, a 50-year-old water treaty that Pakistan says India is breaking, and unrest in Baluchistan, which Pakistan accuses India of fomenting.