A Mumbai court sentenced to death Pakistani citizen Mohammad Ajmal Kasab over the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Here are some reactions from people in New Delhi.
Almost a year and a half since the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people, Ajmal Kasab, the lone gunman captured during the three-day rampage, has been sentenced to death by a special court.
“He shall be hanged by the neck till he is dead,” Judge M.L. Tahilyani said at a special court as Kasab sat with his head bowed, occasionally wiping his eyes with the back of his hand and then covering his ears with his fingers.
The judgement was hardly surprising given the accused pleaded guilty during the course of the trial (although he later retracted) and more than 650 witnesses testified against Kasab, backed by video grabs of him walking around the attack site with an AK-47 rifle in hand.
Now that India and Pakistan have agreed to hold further talks following a meeting between the prime ministers of the two countries, are they going to step back from a bruising confrontation in Afghanistan?
It's a war fought in the shadows with spies and proxies, and lots of money. Once in a while it gets really nasty as in deadly attacks on Indian interests for which New Delhi has pointed the finger at Pakistan.
It's not clear what subjects Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Yusuf Raza Gilani touched on during their meeting on the sidelines of a regional summit in Bhutan, but Afghanistan clearly is an important subtext, arguably the most pressing one at this time.
India and Pakistan held secret talks for more than three years, reached an accord on the thorny Kashmir issue and had almost unveiled it in 2007 before domestic turmoil in Pakistan derailed it, former Pakistani foreign minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri has revealed.
Kasuri says the two nuclear-armed rivals, who rule the Himalayan region in parts, had agreed to full demilitarisation of both the Indian and Pakistani parts of Kashmir with a package of loose autonomy on both sides of the Line of Control, a military control line that divides the region between two nations.
“We agreed on a point between complete independence and autonomy,” Kasuri told Times of India.
Another international summit. Another chance for the leaders of India and Pakistan to find a way of getting their countries to talk to each other.
After last year's aborted attempt at peace-making, first in Yekaterinburg and then in Sharm-el-Sheikh, expectations are running low that the prime ministers of India and Pakistan will make much headway when they meet at a SAARC summit in Thimphu, Bhutan this week.
But given that cynicism is the preserve of the intellectually lazy, I'm going to resist the temptation to jump into that safe and comfortable foxhole and instead see where these talks might lead us.
Most people who follow South Asia have either watched the Beating the Retreat ceremony at Wagah on the India-Pakistan border on video or been there in person. The farcical and choreographed display by goose-stepping soldiers from India and Pakistan as they slam shut the gates on the border crossing is such a staple for Western journalists that it has almost become too cliched to write about.
But having been there myself for the first time last week, after 10 years of following India and Pakistan, I can't resist throwing in my own two cents' worth.
The mood is already riotously cheerful as we arrive from Lahore, "Jai Ho" blasting out from loudspeakers on the Indian side, soon to be drowned out by loud music on the Pakistani side, accompanied by much banging of drums, clapping, flag-waving and dancing. The goose-stepping soldiers with their turbans appear and dance out their quadrilles to cries of "Pakistan Zindabad" on our side of the gate, "Bharat Mata ki" on the other. The white gates with the Pakistani flag and the name of the country in both English and Urdu are still shut, so that my first impression of a country that I once lived in for four years is that I can hear India rather than see it.
Pakistan is conducting its biggest military exercises in 21 years and at the weekend thousands of troops backed by fighter jets took part in a mock battle to repel a simulated Indian military advance and inflict heavy casualties. The manoeuvres were designed to test a riposte to India's Cold Start doctrine of a rapid and deep thrust into Pakistan in a simulated environment, but you are never far from real action on the heavily militarised border between the two countries.
On Sunday, as the mock battle unfolded in the deserts of eastern Pakistan, the two armies were engaged in a real exchange of fire a few hundred miles away, along the border in Punjab. Both sides reported the firing in the Shakargarh sector and as is the norm blamed the other for starting it. It didn't last long and by the standards of Indo-Pak artillery duels it was a blip. But what is interesting is it took place along a settled section of the border as distinct from cross-border firing along the Line of Control separating the two armies in disputed Kashmir. Shooting across the international border has been rare, although there have been incidents in January this year and in July and September in 2009.
Leaders of more than 40 countries are gathering in Washington for a summit beginning on Monday to control the spread of nuclear weapons. Iran for obvious reasons is not invited, but it has announced a conference of its own soon after the Washington meeting. It's called ‘Nuclear Energy for All, Nuclear Weapons for None, and among those who have agreed to attend are India, Pakistan and China.
While the level of representation to the Teheran meeting is not at the same level as Washington for all three countries, the fact that they have chosen to attend seems to be a signal to the Obama administration just as it is trying to isolate Iran for its suspected nuclear weapons programme. India's presence in particular has raised the question if it is starting to re-assess ties with Tehran that have in recent years been allowed to slip in the pursuit of a strategic relationship with America.
As The Hindu newspaper noted the Tehran conference is a "red rag" to Washington and it has been quietly discouraging countries to attend. For New Delhi to agree to send its ambassador to the meeting can only be a signal that it is looking to expand its diplomatic space in the region as differences emerge with Washington over its Afghan strategy weighted towards Pakistan, Indian experts say.New Delhi really should be re-energising links with Tehran if it wants to maintain its reach in Afghanistan, they say. Without a geographically contiguous border and a hostile Pakistan in the middle, Iran remains the only corridor to Afghanistan.
This week, while one Pakistani was being questioned by the Indian police and hysterical reporters on an alleged marriage to an Indian, another Pakistani, composed and smiling, fielded questions from an admiring audience on dynasty and politics in the country that every Indian has an opinion on.
The contrast between Shoaib Malik, who is all set to marry Indian tennis star Sania Mirza, and Fatima Bhutto, writer and niece of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto, could not be more glaring. And that is reason to celebrate.
Because for a few days, we could forget all the usual tensions between the nuclear-armed rivals and simply revel in a public spectacle that had equal measures of romance, melodrama and suspense.
Remember the issue of what to do with the corpses of the nine attackers killed during the November 2008 siege of the Taj Mahal Hotel and other targets in Mumbai that killed 166 people? The dead attackers were all presumed to be Pakistani Muslims, like the sole survivor, but local Indian Muslim leaders refused to let them be buried in their cemeteries. Islamabad ignored calls to take the bodies back. So they were left in morgue refrigerators in Mumbai, presumably until the issue was finally settled.
FaithWorld was deluged with comments after we asked if the bodies should be cremated and the ashes spread at sea. A surprising number of them suggested the bodies should be desecrated, thrown to the dogs or dumped at the Pakistani-Indian border. The discussion tapered off and the issue seemed to have been forgotten.