Archive for the ‘ Mumbai ’ Category

Growing Hope for Trade Ties Between India and Pakistan

By Shahzeb Jillani

Business leaders from India and Pakistan say there’s new optimism about the efforts their governments are making to improve trade ties. But critics warn that overcoming decades of mistrust may not be that easy.

For the first time in 35 years, a Pakistani commerce minister led a business delegation to India last week. The entourage included nearly 80 leading industrialists, traders and high-ranking officials.

Peace talks between the two nuclear-armed neighbours broke down in 2008 after the attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai, which India blamed on Pakistan-based militants.

Nearly three years on, as if to emphasise a sense of normalcy, the Pakistani Commerce Minister, Makhdoom Amin Fahim, stayed at the city’s Taj Mahal Hotel – which was one of the main targets of the 2008 attacks.

There, leading Pakistani traders got a chance to mingle with their equally eager-for-business Indian counterparts.

Between them, they spoke not just of the profits their individual businesses could make if their governments removed the long standing hurdles in their way. But also of how much the people of their two countries, and indeed the wider region, stand to benefit from freer movement of goods, money and commodities.

The only way I see realisation of trade potential between our two countries is for India to remove its non-tariff trade barriers and for Pakistan to reciprocate by granting the MFN status to India”

Vijay Kalantri, president of All India Association of Industries, said traders on both sides feel business between India and Pakistan is a win-win situation for everyone.

“Why are Indians and Pakistanis forced to trade unofficially via third countries like Dubai or Sri Lanka?” he tells the BBC from Mumbai.

“All we are asking is, let there be direct business-to-business contact between us.”

After the talks in Delhi, ministers from the two sides announced their agreement to boost their annual bilateral trade from current $2.7bn (£1.7bn) to $6bn by 2015.

They also pledged to ease business travel and promote bilateral trade through the land route.

For Pakistan, a significant announcement was a pledge by India to drop its opposition to the European Union’s plan to grant Pakistan tariff waiver on select commodities to help it recover from the devastation of 2010 floods.

There was hope that Pakistan might reciprocate and grant India the Most Favoured Nation status (India granted Pakistan MFN status way back in the 1990s).

Even though no such announcement came, Pakistan committed itself to a road map to implement preferential trade ties with India, as prescribed under the South Asia Free Trade Agreement (Safta).

Trade barriers
There are a number of explanations why Pakistan has so far withheld the MFN status from India.

At present there are a number of barriers to prevent trade between Indian and Pakistan
First is political. Pakistani leaders have often linked it to the resolution of the core issue of Kashmir.

It’s a stance which has long been propagated for mainly domestic consumption.

But there is a sense in Pakistan that while the country should continue to push for a negotiated settlement of the Kashmir issue, trade and commerce should not be held hostage to resolution of political disputes.

The second is protectionism. For years, domestic industry in Pakistan has feared it would be swamped by imports from India. But even there, the mood appears to have shifted.

Senator Haji Ghulam Ali, president of Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry, says there’s a consensus that Pakistan should open up to Indian business.

“Everyone now recognises it will be beneficial for both sides. It’s just a matter of time before it’s done,” he tells the BBC from Delhi.

Business leaders say that less trade barriers would benefit firms in both countries, However, the last, and more plausible, obstacle is the issue of non-tariff barriers.

“In my experience, India has one of the most restrictive trade regimes in the region,” asserts Dr Ashfaq Hasan Khan, a former advisor to Pakistan’s Ministry of Finance. His view matters, given has decades of dealings with South Asian governments on trade liberalization.

He explains that despite granting Pakistan the MFN status, India has a variety of non-tariff barriers in place – such as, stringent certification codes, customs rules, security clearances and movement restrictions – which make it virtually impossible for Pakistani traders to do business in India.

“The only way I see realisation of trade potential between our two countries is for India to remove its non-tariff trade barriers and for Pakistan to reciprocate by granting the MFN status to India,” says Mr Khan.

He adds: “Unless there’s political will to do that, everything else is just talk and photo op.”


India, Pakistan To Open New Trade Check-Post

By Tom Wright for The Wall Street Journal

While India and Pakistan trade barbs over terrorism, the country’s trade officials are making small but notable steps toward opening up their economies to one another.

In October, authorities plan to open a second trade check-post at the Wagah border in Punjab state, the only land-crossing between the two hostile neighbors, in an attempt to boost trade volumes. The commerce ministers of both countries are expected to formally announce the new check-post at a meeting in New Delhi later this month.

It might look like a baby step in normalizing frozen trade relations. But with so much else going wrong in India-Pakistan ties, it’s a welcome bit of positive news and one that is energizing Indian businessmen who work close to the border.

Currently, trucks that carry the meager flow of trade between India and Pakistan have to stop unloading at 3 p.m. because that’s when tourists from both sides start arriving at the Wagah border for the evening “Beating Retreat” ceremony – a display of nationalistic bravado that precedes the formal closing of the gates between the countries each evening.

The new terminal will allow trade to continue until 7 p.m. and hopefully increase volumes passing through the check-post.

Some business groups in Amritsar, a city near the Indian side of the border,  are betting on an expansion of trade. Suneet Kochhar, director of a paper company based in Amritsar, is involved with a group of investors who have accumulated land to develop a freight terminal near the second trade check-post.

“Once it’s operational, things will change,” Mr. Kocchar says. Land near the border has doubled in value in the past two years, he adds.

To be sure, Pakistan and India have looked like moving ahead on trade in the past but things have gotten nowhere. Another attack like the one carried out by Pakistani militants on Mumbai in 2008, killing over 160 people, could easily nip the current optimism in the bud.

Two-way India-Pakistan trade was a paltry $1.8 billion in the year ended March 31, 2010, basically unchanged over the past five years, while India’s trade with China has skyrocketed to $60 billion.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has said that India won’t be able to fulfill its economic potential unless it normalizes relations with Pakistan, which is a gateway to the Central Asian republics and beyond. For Pakistan, India is a huge potential market of 1.2 billion people. For now, businesses that want to get around restrictions have to ship goods at extra cost via ports like  Dubai.

The new check-post is a good start. Indian officials estimate two-way trade could easily jump to $2.7 billion in the short term. But there won’t be a seismic shift in trade volumes until both countries make serious efforts to expand the list of products that they can trade with one another. The current list encompasses just over 1,000 items.

That has frustrated some business people. Sunil Behal, director at Poplon Chemie, an Amritsar-based company that makes chemicals to treat leather, says some of its key products are not on the list. The company currently exports only $7,000 worth of products to Pakistan each month out of its total global exports of over $180,000 in the same period, he says.

But like many businesspeople in the area, he’s hopeful that politicians really mean to make progress this time. The check-post, he say, “will definitely boost business.”

There are tentative signs of seriousness. Ahead of the commerce ministers’ meeting later this month, officials from both sides met in New Delhi and thrashed out their differences. The minutes of the meeting  are here.

The officials were candid about the challenges. The new check-post, they agreed, will only be effective if both sides take other measures like simplifying customs procedures.

Pakistan officials complained they were not even aware of the customs rules followed by India, and faced a number of non-tariff barriers to trade such as cumbersome testing of products by Indian authorities that can take weeks, according to the minutes.

India lamented that Pakistan continues to put blocks in the way of trade, including proscribing a number of goods that aren’t allowed to enter Pakistan by road but instead have to come by rail. Mr. Kochhar, the paper company director, says he would export newsprint to Pakistan, but it’s uneconomical at the moment to ship via rail.

Both sides complain about the difficulty of getting business visas and have promised to remove bureaucratic obstacles.

The key, though, might be plans that India and Pakistan have to allow trade in most products, only protecting weak and strategic industries. The two countries are currently drawing up a list of these industries – known as a negative list – to submit to the other side.

Don’t expect these issues to be ironed out overnight. Still, there’s movement which both nations are trying to build on.

India and Pakistan, Talking

As reported by The New York Times

With a relationship as combustible as that between India and Pakistan, it’s progress just to get the two sides in a room. Last week’s meeting was better. Their foreign ministers announced modest, but very welcome, agreements concerning the bitterly disputed region of Kashmir.

They promised to double the number of days when cross-border trade between the two parts of Kashmir — one controlled by India, the other by Pakistan — is allowed and to expand and expedite travel permits for Kashmiris who want to cross the border for family visits, tourism and religious purposes. India and Pakistan have fought three wars since 1947, two over Kashmir. Even these small steps could help chip away at their visceral mistrust.

Three weeks ago, some doubted the meeting would even happen after three explosions ripped through Mumbai, killing 24 people. The Mumbai attacks in 2008 that killed 160 people were blamed on Pakistani terrorists and sent relations with India into the deep freeze. So far, suspicion for the recent attacks has fallen on Indian terrorists.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India deserves huge credit for staying engaged despite Pakistan’s failure to prosecute those responsible for the 2008 horrors. And he deserves credit for not shooting first and asking questions later after the recent attacks.

We wish we could say the same of Pakistan’s leaders. Before there can be a true reconciliation, and stability in the region, Pakistan’s Army must realize that using militants to try to counter Indian influence in Kashmir and Afghanistan is self-destructive — and that homegrown extremism, not India, is the real threat to Pakistan’s survival.

India and Pakistan have more to talk about, including cooperation on water, expanded trade and their joint stake in a stable Afghanistan. President Obama’s drawdown of American troops will go easier if India and Pakistan are part of the solution, not fighting over the spoils. New Delhi insists that it will accept no outside mediation. Washington needs to keep pressing the two to work together.

The United States and its allies are planning a conference in Bonn in December and hope to rally international support for a broad regional strategy that includes a peace deal for Afghanistan, trade agreements and ambitious energy projects. India and Pakistan need to be full participants. The payoff could be huge if their leaders muster the courage to resolve their differences.

Why My Father Hated India

By Aatish Taseer for The Wall Street Journal

Ten days before he was assassinated in January, my father, Salman Taseer, sent out a tweet about an Indian rocket that had come down over the Bay of Bengal: “Why does India make fools of themselves messing in space technology? Stick 2 bollywood my advice.”

My father was the governor of Punjab, Pakistan’s largest province, and his tweet, with its taunt at India’s misfortune, would have delighted his many thousands of followers. It fed straight into Pakistan’s unhealthy obsession with India, the country from which it was carved in 1947.

Though my father’s attitude went down well in Pakistan, it had caused considerable tension between us. I am half-Indian, raised in Delhi by my Indian mother: India is a country that I consider my own. When my father was killed by one of his own bodyguards for defending a Christian woman accused of blasphemy, we had not spoken for three years.

To understand the Pakistani obsession with India, to get a sense of its special edge—its hysteria—it is necessary to understand the rejection of India, its culture and past, that lies at the heart of the idea of Pakistan. This is not merely an academic question. Pakistan’s animus toward India is the cause of both its unwillingness to fight Islamic extremism and its active complicity in undermining the aims of its ostensible ally, the United States.

The idea of Pakistan was first seriously formulated by neither a cleric nor a politician but by a poet. In 1930, Muhammad Iqbal, addressing the All-India Muslim league, made the case for a state in which India’s Muslims would realize their “political and ethical essence.” Though he was always vague about what the new state would be, he was quite clear about what it would not be: the old pluralistic society of India, with its composite culture.

Iqbal’s vision took concrete shape in August 1947. Despite the partition of British India, it had seemed at first that there would be no transfer of populations. But violence erupted, and it quickly became clear that in the new homeland for India’s Muslims, there would be no place for its non-Muslim communities. Pakistan and India came into being at the cost of a million lives and the largest migration in history.

This shared experience of carnage and loss is the foundation of the modern relationship between the two countries. In human terms, it meant that each of my parents, my father in Pakistan and my mother in India, grew up around symmetrically violent stories of uprooting and homelessness.

But in Pakistan, the partition had another, deeper meaning. It raised big questions, in cultural and civilizational terms, about what its separation from India would mean.

In the absence of a true national identity, Pakistan defined itself by its opposition to India. It turned its back on all that had been common between Muslims and non-Muslims in the era before partition. Everything came under suspicion, from dress to customs to festivals, marriage rituals and literature. The new country set itself the task of erasing its association with the subcontinent, an association that many came to view as a contamination.

Had this assertion of national identity meant the casting out of something alien or foreign in favor of an organic or homegrown identity, it might have had an empowering effect. What made it self-wounding, even nihilistic, was that Pakistan, by asserting a new Arabized Islamic identity, rejected its own local and regional culture. In trying to turn its back on its shared past with India, Pakistan turned its back on itself.

But there was one problem: India was just across the border, and it was still its composite, pluralistic self, a place where nearly as many Muslims lived as in Pakistan. It was a daily reminder of the past that Pakistan had tried to erase.

Pakistan’s existential confusion made itself apparent in the political turmoil of the decades after partition. The state failed to perform a single legal transfer of power; coups were commonplace. And yet, in 1980, my father would still have felt that the partition had not been a mistake, for one critical reason: India, for all its democracy and pluralism, was an economic disaster.

Pakistan had better roads, better cars; Pakistani businesses were thriving; its citizens could take foreign currency abroad. Compared with starving, socialist India, they were on much surer ground. So what if India had democracy? It had brought nothing but drought and famine.

But in the early 1990s, a reversal began to occur in the fortunes of the two countries. The advantage that Pakistan had seemed to enjoy in the years after independence evaporated, as it became clear that the quest to rid itself of its Indian identity had come at a price: the emergence of a new and dangerous brand of Islam.

As India rose, thanks to economic liberalization, Pakistan withered. The country that had begun as a poet’s utopia was reduced to ruin and insolvency.

The primary agent of this decline has been the Pakistani army. The beneficiary of vast amounts of American assistance and money—$11 billion since 9/11—the military has diverted a significant amount of these resources to arming itself against India. In Afghanistan, it has sought neither security nor stability but rather a backyard, which—once the Americans leave—might provide Pakistan with “strategic depth” against India.

In order to realize these objectives, the Pakistani army has led the U.S. in a dance, in which it had to be seen to be fighting the war on terror, but never so much as to actually win it, for its extension meant the continuing flow of American money. All this time the army kept alive a double game, in which some terror was fought and some—such as Laskhar-e-Tayyba’s 2008 attack on Mumbai—actively supported.

The army’s duplicity was exposed decisively this May, with the killing of Osama bin Laden in the garrison town of Abbottabad. It was only the last and most incriminating charge against an institution whose activities over the years have included the creation of the Taliban, the financing of international terrorism and the running of a lucrative trade in nuclear secrets.

This army, whose might has always been justified by the imaginary threat from India, has been more harmful to Pakistan than to anybody else. It has consumed annually a quarter of the country’s wealth, undermined one civilian government after another and enriched itself through a range of economic interests, from bakeries and shopping malls to huge property holdings.

The reversal in the fortunes of the two countries—India’s sudden prosperity and cultural power, seen next to the calamity of Muhammad Iqbal’s unrealized utopia—is what explains the bitterness of my father’s tweet just days before he died. It captures the rage of being forced to reject a culture of which you feel effortlessly a part—a culture that Pakistanis, via Bollywood, experience daily in their homes.

This rage is what makes it impossible to reduce Pakistan’s obsession with India to matters of security or a land dispute in Kashmir. It can heal only when the wounds of 1947 are healed. And it should provoke no triumphalism in India, for behind the bluster and the bravado, there is arid pain and sadness.

—Mr. Taseer is the author of “Stranger to History: A Son’s Journey Through Islamic Lands.” His second novel, “Noon,” will be published in the U.S. in September

-Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note– Aatish Taseer’s brutally honest and forthright column is one of the best articles I have read in a long time.  As a Pakistani American, I find a lot of truth in what he is saying, no matter how ill received it may be back in Pakistan, I feel that Aatish does make some good points and it was well worth sharing with you readers.

Pakistan’s Glamorous New Foreign Minister Wows India

By Robert Zeliger for Foreign Policy

She’s young, stylish, sharp and pretty, and Indians are falling for her. Yep, it seems that Pakistan’s new 34-year-old foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, has accomplished what years of tense diplomacy haven’t been able to — create some genuine goodwill between the two constantly sparring nations. In her first official visit today to India since taking over the foreign ministry last week, Khar met with her Indian counterpart, S.M. Krishna. The two agreed to boost security, trade, transportation, travel, and cultural links between the countries — in what analysts called some of the most productive talks between the two sides since Pakistani militants killed 166 people in Mumbai three years ago. But it’s her youth and glamour that are credited with creating a “fresh start atmosphere.” She later met with India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

But who really cares what happened behind closed doors. More importantly: she got high marks for wearing Roberto Cavalli sunglasses, classic pearl and diamond jewelry, a blue designer dress, and toting an Hermes Birkin bag. And thus ladies and gentleman, a glamour icon is born. We give it three months before Vogue comes calling… wait, maybe two.

Indian papers and news programs today gushed over Khar, praising her beauty and style. The Times of India headlined their front page story: “Pak Puts On Its Best Face.” The Navbharat Times said the country was “sweating over model-like minister.” The Mail Today said she had brought a “Glam touch to Indo-Pak talks” and asked, “Who says politicians can’t be chic?” These are not the usual superlatives Pakistani diplomats are used to getting in the Indian press.

Of course, not everything was picture perfect. The Indian press did attack her for meeting with a Kashmiri separatist group later in the day.

But overall, it was hard not to sense the generational shift as Khar spoke about “a new generation of Indians and Pakistanis [who] will see a relationship that will hopefully be much different from the one that has been experienced in the last two decades” after meeting with the Indian foreign minister who — through no fault of his own, save for his misfortune of being born 79 years ago — did totally look like her grandfather.

As Seema Goswami, a leading Indian social commentator, put it, “She’s incredibly young pretty, glamorous and has no fear of appearing flash. She wore pearls when she arrived and diamonds for the talks. We’re so obsessed with her designer bag and clothes that we forget she first held talks with the Hurriyat [Kashmiri separatists]. She could be Pakistan’s new weapon of mass destruction.”

Clinton Says US Encouraged by India-Pakistan Talks

By Matthew Lee and Ravi Nessman for The Associated Press

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Tuesday that the United States was “encouraged” by the ongoing talks between nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan and promised to give full support to Indian efforts to protect itself from terror.

Clinton’s visit to India came less than a week after a triple bombing killed 20 people in India’s financial capital of Mumbai, the worst terror strike in the country since 10 Pakistan-based gunmen rampaged through the city in 2008.

Her meetings with top Indian officials Tuesday focused on fighting terror, the U.S. withdrawal plans from Afghanistan and ways to broaden economic and security ties between the United States and India.

She also called for a swift resolution to their dispute over investments in nuclear energy, calling on India to ratify by the end of the year the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage and to adapt its liability laws to conform with the treaty.

The U.S. views India’s new nuclear liability law as too stringent on nuclear plant suppliers, making it difficult for private U.S. companies to compete against state-owned companies in India’s multibillion dollar nuclear reactor market.

Clinton’s trip here is part of a new round of U.S.-India strategic dialogue established last year to deepen ties between the world’s oldest and largest democracies.

S.M. Krishna, India’s foreign minister, expressed concerns that the planned U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan that began this month could lead to a resurgence in Islamic extremism.

“It is in the larger interests of the region that it is necessary for the United States to work very closely with (Afghan) President (Hamid) Karzai and the government of Afghanistan and thereby create conditions where terrorists do not take any more advantage in Afghanistan,” Krishna said after 2 1/2 hours of talks with Clinton.

Clinton said she had outlined the drawdown strategy and stressed that the United States will not support Afghan reconciliation with insurgents unless it is inclusive and protects the rights of minority groups, religions and women.

Clinton also assured India of U.S. support in the fight against terror.

“We are allies in the fight against violent extremist networks. And homeland security is a high priority and a source of increasing partnership,” Clinton said.

While the U.S. and India have already signed agreements to cooperate in counterterrorism efforts, “the events in Mumbai have driven home how important it is that we get results,” she said.

Though India has not blamed Pakistan for last week’s attack, it has accused its neighbor of harboring violent extremist groups responsible for other attacks in India and of not doing enough to crack down on those responsible for the 2008 Mumbai siege.

For its part, U.S. officials fear Pakistan is not fully committed to combatting radical plots, such as the failed 2010 Times Square bombing in New York.

“We have made it clear to the Pakistani government that confronting violent extremists of all sorts is in its interest,” Clinton said.

India recently resumed peace talks with Pakistan that broke off following the 2008 Mumbai siege, and the two countries’ foreign ministers are expected to meet next week.

The U.S. is eager for the fragile talks to pick up steam, in part to allow Pakistan to focus its forces on the chaotic Afghan border.

“We are encouraged by the dialogue between India and Pakistan,” Clinton said, calling talks “the most promising approach” to build more confidence between them.

During the meeting Tuesday, Clinton and Krishna agreed to strengthen their countries’ ties in energy, security, education, the economy, science and promoting stability across the region. The two countries also signed an agreement promoting closer cooperation in cybersecurity.

Once frosty relations between India and the United States have warmed considerably in recent years as Washington has looked to India as stable ally in the turbulent South Asia region and its growing economy as a valuable market for U.S. goods.

President Barack Obama hosted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at his first state dinner and visited India for three days last year, praising it as a new regional power. Clinton was to meet with Singh later Tuesday.

Growing business ties were among the top issues in the talks.

Western officials have looked to India’s rising economy and its 1.2 billion people as a coveted market to help stimulate growth in their own troubled economies.

“Each of our countries can do more to reduce barriers, open our markets, and find new opportunities for economic partnership,” Clinton said. “Taking these steps is in our mutual interest. We can improve millions of lives and increase both of our nations’ economic competitiveness.”

She praised India’s fight against piracy, and pushed for greater sales of U.S. arms to India — the world’s largest arms importer —as a way of deepening security cooperation between the two nations.

U.S. officials were annoyed earlier this year when Indian officials chose two European companies as finalists for an $11 billion order for 126 fighter jets. However, last month India signed an agreement to buy 10 Boeing C-17 cargo and troop-carrying aircraft for more than $4 billion.

From New Delhi, Clinton on Wednesday will move on to the southeastern port of Chennai, where she plans to deliver a speech on the importance of U.S.-Indian relations, the benefits of enhanced bilateral commercial ties and India’s role in South Asia and the greater Asia-Pacific region.

Clinton is in India on the third leg of a 12-day, around-the-world diplomatic tour that has already taken her to Turkey and Greece. After India, she will visit Indonesia, Hong Kong and southern mainland China before returning home July 25.

Mumbai Counts Its Losses

As Reported by The Hindustan Times

The improvised explosive devices (IEDs) used in the triple bombings were not crude but prepared with “some level of sophistication”, the government said as investigators scrambled for clues on a rain-soaked Thursday and a weary Mumbai picked up the pieces after yet another terror strike.

A day after 17 people were killed and 131 injured when synchronised blasts rocked India’s financial capital, striking the congested areas of Dadar, Zaveri Bazaar and Opera House within minutes of each other, there was no breakthrough on who was behind it.

“We will ensure no matter wherever the accused are, we will identify them and bring them to book,” Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) chief Rakesh Maria vowed, appealing for faith and trust.

In a flurry of activity, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi headed for Mumbai. Home minister P. Chidambaram reached on Wednesday night and opposition leader LK Advani on Thursday morning.

Resigned, outraged or simply stoic, Mumbaikars rallied around to battle the crisis, 31 months after the Nov 26-28, 2008 terror assault, India’s worst. They waited outside morgues to claim the bodies of their kin, lined up at hospitals or packed into trains and buses to go about their daily work.

“I am a Mumbaikar and we shall not be scared by these terror attacks. Like me, lakhs of co-commuters are in the trains, buses and roads. It actually helps gives strength to each other,” Archana Shukla said as she went to work.

In Zaveri Bazaar, Mumbai’s most popular address for jewellery that on Wednesday saw its third terror strike, merchants were shocked. But said firmly they were staying put.

“What is the point in shifting base? Are other business locations safer?” asked Raju Solanki, a gold jeweller.

That was a question even experts were loathe to answer as investigators began unravelling the conspiracy behind this latest assault by yet unknown terrorists.

Various agencies, including the National Security Guard (NSG), the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) and the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and Mumbai Police, were involved in the probe.

According to union home secretary RK Singh, the ammonium nitrate-based IEDs were “not crude” but indicated “some level of sophistication”.

A top doctor at one of the hospitals where the bodies of the dead were taken for a post mortem said an electric circuit, that may have triggered the blast, was found on one of them, leading to speculation that it may have been a suicide bomber at work.

Sources said traces of ammonium nitrate, also confirmed by Chidambaram, and fuel had been found in the explosives.

“Ammonium nitrate was used with a timer. The fact that they all took place within minutes of each other — eight-to-10 minutes — shows that it was a coordinated terror attack,” Chidambaram said.

The CCTV footage holds the key. Sources told IANS that some of the footage was marred by the rain and bad light Wednesday evening.

Hours after visiting the terror sites, Chidambaram said 131 people had been taken to 13 hospitals with injuries. He said one severed head was also found at the site that could take the death toll to 18.

Addressing a press conference in Mumbai, he admitted there was no prior intelligence input.

Quick to seize the initiative, BJP leader Advani pointed the needle of suspicion towards Pakistan.

“It is a policy failure not intelligence failure. There have been repeated attacks on Mumbai, this is a failure of policy,” Advani told reporters.

Advani quoted reports of a probable link between the blast and the Indian Mujahideen (IM) and said even if it were behind the attack it was being sustained by Pakistan.

“The last attack on our land is proved to have been engineered by the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence),” Advani said.

“So far as India is concerned, the government of India should shed its ambivalence to terrorism,” Advani said.

Pakistan’s foreign minister comes to New Delhi for talks July 26-27 and external affairs minister SM Krishna said the terror strikes would not impact the strategic dialogue.

The timing of the attack has raised suspicions in informed strategic circles over whether the serial blasts were engineered by those who wanted to derail the peace process in the subcontinent.

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s NoteWe at Pakistanis for Peace are saddened by this loss of life and would like to let our Indian friends know that we as Pakistanis for Peace stand in solidarity with India against acts of terror.

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