Saturday, January 24, 2009

Pakistani peace mission in India

Sanjoy Majumder

BBC News, Delhi

A Pakistani peace delegation made up of politicians, activists and journalists has travelled to India - the first such visit since the Mumbai attacks.

During three days in Delhi they will meet politicians and other Indians in an effort to reduce tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

India blames the Mumbai (Bombay) attacks on Pakistan-based groups and wants Islamabad to crack down on them.

The group will have only limited access to the Indian government.

They are meeting politicians and parliamentarians from both the governing Congress Party as well as left-wing parties, but no member of the cabinet or senior official.

'Challenging terrorism'

Despite the peace mission's limited mandate, the group of 24 Pakistani activists who crossed the land border into India and are now meeting their counterparts in Delhi feel it is worth the effort.

"We decided to come to meet not just our counterparts but also people in the government and outside and to see what is the way forward," says Asma Jahangir, delegation leader and chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

"Certainly war is not the way forward."

India has handed over a dossier to Pakistan that it says contains evidence linking the Mumbai attacks to elements in that country.

But while there is sympathy for Delhi's position, Ms Jahangir believes that India is missing the point.

"The major issue is how do the governments of the region get together to challenge terrorism, which is not only spreading in Pakistan but throughout the region," she said.

In the past, interactions of this nature have had some success in pushing both governments to do business with each other.

But some believe that the mood in India has changed post-Mumbai, making efforts such as this one that much more challenging.

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