India, Pakistan agree to 'terror hotline'

AFP , Tuesday 29 Mar 2011

India and Pakistan agree to cooperate against terrorism in an effort to build trust between the two countries

Indian Home Secretary G.K. Pillai, right, shakes hand with Pakistan's Interior Secretary Qamar uz Zaman during talks in New Delhi, India, Monday 28 March 2011. (AP)

India and Pakistan agreed Tuesday to set up a "terror hotline" to warn each other of possible militant attacks, a move to build trust as the two nuclear foes get their peace process back on track.

Indian home secretary G.K. Pillai, the highest official in the home ministry, and his Pakistani counterpart Chaudhary Qamar Zaman also confirmed that an Indian team probing the 2008 attacks in Mumbai may visit Pakistan.

"Both sides agreed to set up a hotline between the home secretary of India and the interior secretary of Pakistan to facilitate real-time information sharing with respect to terrorist threats," they said after talks in New Delhi.

The joint statement said that Zaman had agreed "in principle" to India's request to send a commission to Pakistan to investigate the Mumbai attacks, in which ten Pakistan-based militants killed 166 people.

"Modalities and composition in this connection will be worked out through diplomatic channels," the statement said after two days of meetings between Pillai and Zaman.

The talks finished a day before the two countries play a high-profile cricket World Cup semi-final match in Mohali in the Indian state of Punjab.

Pakistan Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani has accepted an invitation from his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh to attend the game in a move being dubbed "cricket diplomacy".

New Delhi broke off ties with Islamabad in the wake of the November 2008 attacks on Mumbai, which were blamed on Islamist militants from the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET) network.

In 2001, another attack by Pakistani militants on the Indian parliament in New Delhi brought the two countries to the brink of another war. They have fought three since independence in 1947.

Last month, the two countries announced they would re-start the formal peace dialogue with a view to resolving their issues, including the vexed subject of Kashmir, which is divided between them.

India and Pakistan, who conducted copycat nuclear weapons tests in 1998, also set up a hotline in 2004 to alert each other of any nuclear event which could be confused as an attack.

Delhi-based strategic analyst Brahma Chellaney labelled the new hotline as a "public relations" stunt.

"A line already exists between director-general of military operations of the two countries and from a practical perspective this new line does not change the dynamics of India, Pakistan relations," he said.

The statement released on Tuesday said Pakistan would also provide updates on the ongoing trials into the Mumbai attacks.

India has been pressing its neighbour to prosecute the alleged masterminds in Pakistan of the attacks and has provided several dossiers of evidence recorded by Indian police and intelligence agencies.

Pakistan has charged seven people but none has been convicted.

The two sides also agreed to free fishermen kept in Indian and Pakistani jails.

Coastguards often detain fishermen who accidentally stray into the waters of the other country.

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