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Asia

Indian, Pakistani leaders discuss terrorism in Iran

After talks between Pakistani President Zardari and Indian PM Singh in Tehran, observers say Indo-Pakistani relations won't improve until Islamabad severs all ties with the militant Lashkar-e-Taiba organization.

On Thursday, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari on the sidelines of the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran that New Delhi wanted a speedy trial of the seven people who are being held in Pakistan in connection with the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks.

Mohammed Ajmal Kasab

Kasab was found guilty on more than 80 charges, including murder and waging war on India

Singh reiterated India's position that the fair trial of these people was a necessary step for the improvement of relations between India and Pakistan.

On Wednesday, the Indian Supreme Court upheld the death sentence of the 24-year-old Pakistani citizen Ajmal Kasab, the sole surviving gunman of the 2008 Mumbai attacks (also known as 26/11 attacks). Kasab was one of the ten gunmen who carried out the coordinated attacks in various parts of India's financial capital Mumbai in 2008, killing 166 people.

For months Islamabad denied that Pakistan or Pakistani organizations had any involvement in the 26/11 attacks. However, in 2009, Pakistani authorities arrested seven people, including Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi of the banned Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), for their alleged role in them.

On Thursday, the US placed sanctions on eight Pakistani citizens allegedly linked with Lashkar-e-Taiba.

"The individuals targeted today include LeT members based in Pakistan who are involved in LeT's propaganda campaigns, financial networks, and logistic support networks," the US Treasury said in a statement.

Differing viewpoints

An Indian soldier takes cover as Mumbai's Taj Mahal hotel burns during gun battle between Indian military and militants inside the hotel

Pakistan initially denied that Kasab was its citizen

Peace talks between India and Pakistan had completely broken off after the Mumbai attacks and resumed only last year.

This was the second meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Asif Ali Zardari this year. Last time, the two leaders met in New Delhi in April when President Zardari made a day-long private visit to India.

Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai told the media that the main focus of the Singh-Zardari Tehran meeting was on terrorism-related matters. He said that PM Singh "pressed for an expeditious conclusion in the 26/11 trial and said action taken in this sphere would be a major confidence-building measure (between India and Pakistan).

On his part, Pakistani President Zardari said that both countries needed to "move beyond the reiteration of positions to more substantive results."

"We have covered a lot of ground but we still have to go a long way," Zardari told the press after his meeting with Manmohan Singh. Zardari also said that he was looking forward to hosting PM Singh in Pakistan at an "early date."

The foreign secretaries of the two countries are expected to meet in Islamabad in September.

No action against Lashkar-e-Taiba

Hafiz Saeed, the leader of a banned Islamic group Jamaat-ud-Dawa

Hafiz Saeed also heads the Islamic charitable organization known as Jamaat-ud-Dawa

Political experts say that relations between India and Pakistan have slightly improved but that no real breakthrough can be achieved until Pakistan acts against LeT.

"India and Pakistan are not on the same page in terms of prioritizing their key issues. For Pakistan, the resolution of the Kashmir dispute is the biggest demand, whereas India considers Pakistan-based Islamic extremism the main problem," Malik Siraj Akbar, a Pakistan expert at the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington DC, told DW.

Akbar further said that it was evident that Pakistan was still supporting LeT.

"Lashkar's chief Hafiz Saeed regularly appears on Pakistani television and makes public speeches enticing violence against India. I don't think that Pakistan is showing commitment to act against LeT. Such impunity granted to Hafiz Saeed has hurt the Indian confidence in Pakistan."

Akbar said that the Tehran meeting should not be mistaken for consensus on important issues between Islamabad and New Delhi and that a lot more needed to be done.

On his part, Pakistani peace activist and researcher Nizamuddin Nizamani told DW that the Pakistani government did not want to accept its own responsibility but rather blame "non state actors" for Mumbai attacks.

Improved bilateral trade

Pakistani porters carry trade commodities for India at Wagah, the joint border check post near Lahore, Pakistan

India has recently allowed direct investments from Pakistan

For the improvement of Indo-Pakistani ties, both countries' civil societies had to exert more pressure on their governments, said Nizamani, adding that it was encouraging that India and Pakistan were focusing on trade relations as well.

"The Pakistani government has given India the status of the Most Favored Nation (MFN) in terms of trade. I think it is a big step. India has also allowed direct Pakistani investment in its market. I also think that the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) can also play a big role in making things better between Pakistan and India," said Nizamani.

Peace activists in India and Pakistan say there is no alternative to trade and "people-to-people" contact between the two hostile neighbors, which, in their view, can defeat warmongers and extremist groups on both sides of the border.

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