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This time India will not let Pak get away: Pranab

This time India will not let Pak get away: Pranab

Author: Diwakar & Indrani Bagchi
Publication: The Times of India
Date: January 16, 2009

Foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday made it plain that India would not let Pakistan get away without acting against those responsible for the Mumbai attacks, and dismissed as unconvincing and unacceptable Islamabad's response so far.

In an exclusive interview to TOI, he said that India needs to see concrete action and that a mere window dressing would just not do. "Pakistan's response has to be one which can convince us that Pakistan is ready to tackle this (terrorism) seriously. We don't want a repetition of what happened after the Parliament attack (when Pakistan gave commitments which it did not fulfil)," said the minister who is seen as leading the country's response to the Mumbai attacks.

The Congress stalwart dismissed as unconvincing Pakistan's reported action of shutting down five Jamaat-ud-Dawa camps and detaining 120-odd terrorists belonging to Lashkar-e-Taiba and other groups, and insisted that India needs proof.

He made no bones of his scepticism of the latest claims from Pakistan, pointing out that such "bans" tended to be half-baked. "If an organisation is banned, is it possible to have part of its activities considered undesireable? I read that their charities will not be affected. If an organisation is banned, all practices must be banned," said the veteran minister.

Mukherjee said he would await fuller details on happenings in Pakistan while strongly expressing disapproval of Pakistan's tactic of talking through media. "Sometimes we get these through the media. Pakistan is also not communicating with us either through our mission here or even directly...officially we have had no communication from them (on shutting of JuD camps and detentions)."

He also brushed aside the alibi given by many quarters that Islamabad was unable to act against terrorist groups because of multiple power centres. Maintaining that it was incumbent on the Pakistan government to first uncover the conspiracy and then act against the perpetrators, Mukherjee said, "We will interact with the constitutional government there. It is up to them to sort out anything else...it is their internal matter."

Asking for verifiable action against the 26/11 terrorists, he said India would not accept mock trials by Pakistan. The minister reiterated the demand that Indian nationals hiding in Pakistan must be handed over. "Indian fugitives have to be handed over to us. There should be no distinction there. We would also expect their associates to be handed over, but we are urging that even if they don't do this, Pakistan should have a serious, and not a sham trial of these suspects," he said.

Mukherjee said that he had been amazed by the manner in which even foolproof evidence presented to Pakistan was dismissed in no time at all. "When we get some material these are handed over at a political level. These are to be examined, scrutinised by competent authority. But as soon as they have received it, they came to the conclusion this has to be information and that is what the Pakistan PM told their legislature. That is why I say they are in denial," he said.

He did not agree with the assessment that the diplomatic offensive by India has failed to convince some nations that Pakistan's official agencies were involved in the Mumbai attacks. Mukherjee said that diplomacy takes time to work and "individual countries" have their perceptions. "Other countries have said Pakistan has to do much more than they have done. They recognise Pakistan is the epicentre of terrorism."

On the US response to the terror strikes, and whether it had been adequate, Mukherjee said Washington had been "positive" but it needed to be seen what was being done with respect to Pakistan. "US is positive but we don't know what steps were taken to influence Pakistan to fight against terrorism. Pakistan must dismantle the terrorist infrastructure and abide by its international commitments...All terror attacks in India coming from outside are originating from Pakistan."

He said that India would pursue various options with Pakistan. On home minister P Chidambaram's comments that all ties could be cut off, the minister said, "He (Chidambaram) said it in response to a question. There are various options and he illustrated one. That is not the decision of the government."

But Mukherjee did agree that the terrorist attack on Mumbai raised a "a very large question mark over the achievements of the composite dialogue process over the past 4 and a 1/2 years, and in this context the joint anti-terrorism mechanism and the home secretaries' meetings have not delivered the results we anticipated." He pointed out that this was not a good development as it raised doubts about the utility of dialogue as a means to resolve bilateral differences.

The foreign minister rejected the effort to see terrorism against India as a fallout of a larger regional problem. On incoming US secretary of state Hillary Clinton saying that India was one of the reasons why the "challenge" of Pakistan was complicated, he noted that "terrorism is a global phenomenon. So far as Mumbai is concerned, it is a part of the battle against global terrorism. The origin of this attack is in Pakistan and there are reasons to believe and there is evidence to clearly indicate that this level of operation cannot happen without a well-planned conspiracy."

With some of the comments relating to the incoming Obama administration in US being seen as a likely return of the old India-Pakistan hyphenation, the minister said that "we don't see this as an issue of military confrontation or any other. This is an issue relating to terrorism; therefore, no hyphenation or dehyphenation arises from it." He didn't see possibility of the Kashmir issue being raked up by the Obama administration. "Frankly I don't see any such relationship. I believe terrorism as a phenomenon needs a clear understanding rather than simply relating it to any available issue."

The minister said that the focus would stay on terrorism affecting India even as a new administration prepares to take office and made the point that "we have no reason to believe America will need encouragement to address and focus on security issues relating to neighbourhood which, if not addressed urgently, are bound to affect the entire civilised world. We have noticed that the incoming administration have said the attention should revert to the `forgotten war' in Afghanistan which impacts security of Afghanistan, the region and US.

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