India, US Counter-Terrorism Agreement Sends Signal to Pakistan

By Suryamurthy Ramachandran | July 7, 2008 | 8:07 PM EDT

New Delhi ( - An agreement between India and the Unite States to form a joint counter-terrorism working group sends a strong warning to Pakistan to mend its ways, analysts here said on Thursday.

The decision to establish the body was taken at a meeting on Wednesday between India's Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh and US Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott in London, concluding two days of talks.

The body will hold its first meeting in Washington in early February, the Indian foreign ministry said in a statement.

The representatives agreed to work together to ensure that the perpetrators of the recent hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane were brought to justice as a part of joint efforts to combat international terrorism.

The establishment of the working group against the backdrop of New Delhi's demand that the US declare Pakistan a "terrorist state" indicates that America means business in its dealings with Pakistan military ruler General Parvez Musharraf, analysts said.

"New Delhi has conclusive proof of Pakistan's involvement in cross-border terrorism and its support of the Taliban government in Afghanistan," said C Uday Bhaskar, deputy director of the Institute of Defense Studies and Analysis.

"The export of Islamic terrorism globally and the indirect patronage extended (by Pakistan) to Saudi billionaire terrorist Osama bin Laden, which India has been stating all along, will now be exposed."

The agreement came a day before a visit to Pakistan by Michael Sheehan, Washington's coordinator on counter-terrorism, and Karl Inderfurth, Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia.

The two officials, who participated in the London talks, arrived in Islamabad on Thursday.

India's delegation included Vivek Katju, the Foreign Ministry official in charge of Afghanistan and Pakistan, who late last month negotiated the release of hostages being held in Afghanistan by Kashmiri militants.

Asked whether the joint working group was linked to the hijacking, Singh told the BBC that the decision was not a consequence of the hijacking.

"But it is a joint working group that India and the US have set up to combat the international menace of terrorism, the assumption being that there is indeed such a menace and it needs to be addressed jointly."

Pakistan has rejected India's allegations that it was behind the hijacking.

The Singh-Talbott talks were the tenth round of discussions on disarmament, non-proliferation and international security.

Since India's nuclear tests in May 1998, the US has been pressing India to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). Discussions thus far have produced little progress, however, with India insisting on its right to decide its minimum nuclear deterrent.

The foreign ministry said the talks were held in a "positive and constructive manner."

It said India and the US had also discussed "arrangements to plan in detail for the proposed visit to India by President Bill Clinton."

The first visit to India by an American leader since President Carter is expected to take place in March, although no dates have been officially announced.