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New Delhi, February 22, 2010
President Pratibha Patil today said India was ready to explore a meaningful relationship with Pakistan if it seriously addressed the threat of terrorism and took effective steps to prevent terrorist activities against this country.
This one-line reference to Pakistan in her address to the joint sitting of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha at the start of the Budget Session of Parliament summed up the Government's approach to the talks between the Foreign Secretaries of the two countries here on February 25.
"India is ready to explore a meaningful relationship with Pakistan if Pakistan seriously addresses the threat of terrorism and takes effective steps to prevent terrorist activities against India," she said.
The composite dialogue between India and Pakistan has remained suspended since the November 26, 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, in which 166 people were killed.
India blames the attacks on elements based in Pakistan and has been insisting that there could be no meaningful dialogue between the two countries unless Islamabad brought those responsible for the attacks to book and dismantled the terrorist infrastructure on Pakistani soil used for activities against India.
Last month, India offered to Pakistan talks at the Foreign Secretary-level, which Pakistan accepted. Accordingly, Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir will travel to Delhi for the meeting with his Indian counterpart Nirupama Rao here on Thursday.
Pakistan has been calling for a resumption of the composite dialogue but India has made it clear that the talks between the two Foreign Secretaries would not amount to a resumption of that process, which it says remains suspended.
India has been maintaining that it would stay focused on terrorism as far as the agenda of the talks are concerned and would seek to know from Pakistan the steps it has taken to address India's concerns in this regard.
A day after the date for the Foreign Secretary-level talks was announced, a powerful bomb blast at a popular eatery in Pune on February 13 left 15 people killed and more than 50 others injured.
The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) criticised the Government's decision to go for talks, when its concerns on terrorism remained unaddressed, and urged it to reconsider the move.
Ms Patil began her address today by conveying her heartfelt condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in the Pune blast.
She said the Government had taken several new measures to strengthen the security apparatus of the country to equip it to meet the grave challenge posed by terrorism.
These include strengthening of the state and district police machinery and Central Para-Military Forces, operationalization of the National Investigation Agency, establishment of four National Security Guard hubs to ensure quick and effective response to any possible terror attack, augmentation of the strength of the Intelligence Bureau, strengthening of the Multi-Agency Centre in the Intelligence Bureau to enable it to function on a round-the-clock basis, and strengthening of coastal security, she said.
"Government remains vigilant against all forms of challenges posed by terrorism. Zero tolerance of terrorist activities is our principled policy. We have to keep constant watch and innovate against global terrorist groups," she said.