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India asks Pakistan to arrest 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed

New Delhi, Feb 25 (IANS) The foreign secretaries of India and Pakistan concluded their talks here Thursday, with New Delhi making a strong pitch for the arrest of the suspected Mumbai terror mastermind Hafiz Saeed and airing its concerns over a recent spike in infiltration.

India also sought information from Pakistan on the role of the Pakistani-American David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Rana, who are currently in FBI custody, in the Nov 26, 2008 Mumbai mayhem, sources said.

At the first formal bilateral engagement since the November 2008 Mumbai attacks, Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao held one-on-one talks with her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir at the Hyderabad House for nearly one and a half hours that focused primarily on addressing concerns relating to cross-border terror.

This was followed by delegation-level talks that stretched for over an hour.

India cited renewed anti-India activities of Hafiz Saeed, founder of the Jamaat-ud Dawa and the suspected mastermind of the Mumbai carnage who has stepped up his anti-India rhetoric since the announcement of talks early this month.

The Pakistani side promised action against him. A Lahore court had set Saeed free last year, citing lack of sufficient evidence against the Lashkar-e-Taiba founder who is known for spewing anti-India venom.

Pakistan took note of India’s concerns and has promised action against Saeed, adding that they are equally concerned, the sources added.

The Indian side also raised its concerns over the recent spike in cross-border infiltration and strident rhetoric about a jihad against India among some sections in Pakistan, the sources added.

The Pakistani side, on the other hand, raised issues relating to resolution to the Kashmir dispute and reiterated its allegations about the the alleged complicity of India in the insurgency in Balochistan.

The outcome of the talks is expected to determine the future trajectory of engagement between the two neighbours.

This is the first meeting between Rao and Bashir since the two last met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York in September last year.

Despite the post-Mumbai freeze, the foreign secretaries and foreign ministers of the two estranged neighbours have met earlier on the sidelines of multilateral summits. The interactions focused primarily on actions taken by Islamabad against the 26/11 terrorists.

This time around, the two foreign secretaries have met for the first time in the Indian capital for an open-ended dialogue.

The two prime ministers also met at Sharm-el-Sheikh in Egypt last year, leading to a controversial joint statement delinking composite dialogue from actions by Pakistan against terror.

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