NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India said on Wednesday it was looking to normalise relations with Islamabad through diplomatic channels and was closely monitoring developments in Pakistan, a day after angrily reacting to the release of a militant leader.
“India will work through the diplomatic channels to pursue the objective of bringing about normalcy in our relationship with Pakistan,” Foreign Minister Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna told reporters in New Delhi.
The release of Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, the founder of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant group and an Islamist charity, the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, has angered India.
India said the LeT was responsible for an assault on Mumbai in November.
Saeed was put under house arrest in early December after a U.N. Security Council committee added him and the charity he heads to a list of people and organisations linked to al Qaeda or the Taliban.
India says while it wants friendly relations with Pakistan, it was also “disturbed” and wants Islamabad to take action against those who plotted the Mumbai attacks, including Saeed.
India had “paused” a slow-moving peace process with Pakistan after 10 gunmen killed 166 people last November in Mumbai.
New Delhi says the three-day attack was carried out by Pakistan-based militants who must also have had the backing of some official Pakistani agencies.
Islamabad denied official involvement but has acknowledged the raid had been launched and partly planned from Pakistan.
India gave Pakistan a dossier of information shortly after the attack and followed it up last month with what it said was more evidence that Pakistan could use to prosecute the guilty.
Pakistani authorities plan to challenge Saeed’s release order in the Supreme Court, a provincial government minister said.
“Since he had links with Lashkar-e-Taiba, we believe it’s better his activities should be restricted and that’s why we’re going to appeal,” the law minister of Pakistan’s Punjab province, Rana Sanaullah, told Reuters.
Experts in India said the release of Saeed was a setback to resumption of peace talks, but resuming them is the only way forward to resolve years of mistrust and conflict.
“India would probably have begun talking to Pakistan sooner, if Saeed was not released,” Amulya Ganguli, a political commentator, said in New Delhi.
“One must understand that there is also huge pressure on India from the United States to resume the dialogue,” he told Reuters.
India’s mammoth April/May general election also diverted politicians from attention to the Pakistan issue.
“What the foreign minister said today was expected, ever since the election got over, the Indian side has been looking to review their whole Pakistan policy,” said Siddharth Varadarajan, strategic affairs editor of the Hindu newspaper.
“The longer you suspend the dialogue, the greater are chances of pressure on you, rather than Pakistan.”
Additional Reporting by Kamran Haider