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There had been a sense of inevitability in India that the country would face another major terrorist attack after the Mumbai massacre of November 2008. The only question – when? – was answered Saturday night with the bombing of a bakery in Pune, a city in Western India. Now, the nation asks a new question: How will the attack affect the upcoming talks between India and Pakistan?
Saturday’s bombing of German Bakery, a restaurant popular with foreigners and tourists, killed nine people including two foreigners and injured 60.
The bombing came just after India had agreed to participate in the first Foreign Secretary-level talks with Pakistan since the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which killed more than 160 people. The talks are scheduled for Feb. 25.
The local media and blogosphere has been buzzing all Sunday with speculation on who is responsible for the attack, if Pakistani American David Headley was involved and how the bombing will affect relations between the nuclear-armed rivals.
The opposition party, Bharatiya Janata Party, blamed the attack on Pakistan and called on New Delhi to cancel the talks.
“Terrorism and talks can’t coexist,” said Arun Jaitley of the BJP, as reported by the AP.
India’s External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna declined to speculate on the fate of the talks. When asked about the bombing’s impact on the dialogue, he told reporters, “I am not going to talk about the talks right now. Let us wait for the report [of the investigative agencies] first."
The minister might not be talking, but the Press Trust of India ran a story quoting anonymous government sources as saying that the schedule for the talks remained unchanged.
"The Indo-Pak foreign secretary-level talks are likely to go ahead as per schedule on February 25 despite the Pune bomb blast, with the incident expected to sharpen focus on the issue of terror that India is poised to raise," it reported.
Journalists, foreign policy watchers, young people and even Bollywood stars flocked to Twitter to debate the Pakistan talks and share information on the attack.
TV journalist and columnist Barkha Dutt tweeted: “Pune blasts make it more imperative that we talk to them, and talk on terrorism and terrorism only. Nothing else at this stage!”
Another big-name journalist, Vir Sanghvi, tweeted: "If we do talk to Pak then we should insist on restricting the talks to terrorism. Everything else is irrelevant"
Others used Twitter to express their anguish and anger at the news of the attack.
Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan tweeted: “pains me no end to see..innocent lives lost again. wot is the cause..does anyone remember? how is this the solution?”
Perhaps a tweet by blogger Rahul Jauhari summed it up best: "Sad way to usher in a day of love."