India summons Pak envoy over ‘delays’ in Mumbai trial

* New Delhi says Islamabad told to ensure a mechanism whereby Indian diplomats in their country get regular briefings about Mumbai terror trial and related investigations

NEW DELHI/ISLAMABAD: India summoned a top Pakistani diplomat on Friday, two days after announcing resumption of foreign-secretary-level talks, to voice unhappiness over repeated delays in the trial of seven men accused in the deadly 2008 Mumbai attacks.
“We asked them to ensure a mechanism whereby Indian diplomats in their country get regular briefings about the Mumbai terror trial and related investigations,” a Foreign Ministry official told AFP. The trial, which is being conducted by a Pakistani anti-terrorism court, has seen repeated postponements. India blames the three-day rampage in November 2008 on the outlawed Pakistan-based group Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT). The attacks killed 166 people and strained further relations between the nuclear-armed neighbours.
“Pakistan’s deputy high commissioner (ambassador) in New Delhi was summoned to the Foreign Ministry,” said the official, who asked not to be identified. The Indian deputy high commissioner in Islamabad lodged a similar protest at the Pakistan Foreign Office, the official also said. In a statement, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said: “The Indian deputy high commissioner visited the Foreign Office today... he enquired about progress being made in Mumbai trial.” “The trial was taking its legal course and efforts were being made for its early conclusion,” it added.
The seven Pakistani suspects have been charged with planning and financing the attacks on India’s financial capital. The summoning of the Pakistani diplomat came days after the Indian Foreign Ministry said the foreign secretaries of both foreign secretaries would meet in Islamabad on August 25. In a surprise move in May, India’s new Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited for his swearing-in ceremony his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif along with leaders of other SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) nations.
Modi’s gesture spurred hopes about a resumption of peace talks between the neighbouring states whose relations have remained chilly since the terror attacks. In 2012, India executed the sole surviving gunman, Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab, one of 10 attackers in the deadliest militant onslaught on Indian soil since the country’s 1947 independence. Kasab, who was 25 at the time of his execution, first pleaded not guilty at his trial but later confessed he was one of the gunmen sent by the LeT.
Islamabad reacted to India’s demand by asking it to expedite the Samjhota Express probe. According to Pakistan’s Foreign Office, the Indian deputy high commissioner visited the Foreign Office on Friday, “at his own request,” to meet with director general South Asia. “During the meeting, he enquired about the progress being made in the Mumbai trial. The director general stated that the trial was taking its legal course and efforts were being made for its early conclusion,” the FO said.
“The DG took the opportunity to also enquire about the Samjhota Express investigations. She stated that it was necessary that the outcome of these investigations be shared with Pakistan at the earliest,” an FO statement said. A Pakistani diplomat attempted to downplay this development’s significance, saying the event had a ceremonial importance. “The meeting was part of the follow-up to the two inquiries into the two terror incidents. It was nothing more than routine. Such meetings take place on a regular basis, with officials notes exchanged,” the diplomat said requesting anonymity.
Last week, Islamabad demanded of New Delhi to take to task the perpetrators of the Samjhota Express incident and rejected any pre-conditions for dialogue with India over Kashmir issue. “You cannot have dialogue and at the same time impose pre-conditions” Foreign Office Spokesperson Tasnim Aslam told a weekly press briefing.

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