India says all options open, forwards Kasab’s letter to Pakistan (Roundup)

December 22nd, 2008 - 11:01 pm ICT by IANS  

TalibanNew Delhi/Islamabad, Dec 22 (IANS) India Monday sought to put an end to Pakistan’s “policy of denial” when it handed over a letter written by Mohammed Ajmal Amir alias Kasab, the lone Mumbai attacker in Indian custody, to the Pakistani envoy that he and his fellow gunmen were from Pakistan.Intensifying international pressure on Pakistan, India exhorted the international community to do “much more” to dismantle the “terror infrastructure in Pakistan which has become the greatest threat” to world peace and stability.

New Delhi also stressed that although it has acted with “utmost restraint” so far, it had not “closed any options”, including a military strike, if Islamabad did not fulfill its anti-terror pledge.

The speculation about a possible military strike by India has alarmed the US, which feels that any such military conflict could frustrate its planned surge to defeat the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, arrived in Islamabad with a tough no-nonsense message from Washington asking Pakistan to act urgently to dismantle terror outfits in that country.

US Ambassador David C. Mulford met Home Minister P. Chidambaram in New Delhi Monday to discuss the evidence in the Mumbai terror attacks and ways to strengthen intelligence sharing between the two countries.

In a decisive step to furnish evidence of the complicity of Pakistan-based elements in the Mumbai attacks, India’s external affairs ministry called Pakistan’s acting high commissioner Afrasiab and handed over to him the letter Kasab to wrote to the Pakistan govenment.

“In his letter addressed to the Pakistan High Commission, Kasab has stated that he and the other terrorists (who were) killed in the attack were from Pakistan and has sought a meeting with the Pakistan High Commission,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Vishnu Prakash told reporters.

While Kasab was captured, nine others were killed in gun battles with commandos.

Kasab, in the custody of Mumbai Police, has sought legal aid from Pakistan as no lawyer in India has come forward to defend him in court.

By handing over the letter, India seeks to end weeks of denial and diversionary tactics by the Pakistani leadership which has denied that Kasab is a Pakistani national and also repudiated any link with the coordinated terror strikes in Mumbai which killed more than 170 people, including 22 foreigners.

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India Shahid Malik have denied that Kasab is a Pakistani national.

However, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif has said in an interview that Kasab comes from Fardikot village in Pakistan. Sharif even deprecated the curbs the Pakistani government and the intelligence agencies put on the movement of media peersons and visitors to Faridkot village, which he said was cordoned off.

Toughening India’s posture in the face of repeated Pakistan’s denial, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee Monday said: “If there will be any military conflict, nobody declares it in media. We have kept all our options open.”

“To achieve that objective (to bring the perpetrators of Mumbai terror attack to book) we are not closing any options because our people have died,” Mukherjee told reporters.

“We will expect from Pakistan to do whatever they have committed to do and fulfill their promises as respectful member of the comity of nations,” he said on the sidelines of a three-day conclave of 116 heads of India’s missions abroad in New Delhi which began Monday.

“Unfortunately, Pakistan’s response so far has demonstrated their earlier tendency to resort to a policy of denial and to seek to deflect and shift the blame and responsibility,” he told Indian envoys while providing an overview of India’s strategy in dealing with terrorism from Pakistan.

“We expect the civilian government of Pakistan to take effective steps to deal with elements within Pakistan who still continue the use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy,” he said.

“We have so far acted with utmost restraint and are hopeful that the international community will use its influence to urge the Pakistani government to take effective action,” he said, alluding to Islamabad’s Jan 6, 2004, and Sep 24, 2008, pledges not to allow its territory to be used as a launching pad for terror attacks against India.

“While we continue to persuade the international community and Pakistan, we are also clear that ultimately it is we who have to deal with this problem. We will take all measures necessary as we deem fit to deal with the situation.”

This is the first meeting of the heads of Indian missions across the world. It is aimed at briefing envoys on leading diplomatic challenges in which India is expected to play a major role in days to come.

“Terrorism emanating out of Pakistan is acquiring an increasingly dangerous dimension and continues to threaten peace and stability in this region and beyond,” Mukherjee said.

Referring to India’s efforts to generate international pressure on Pakistan to force it to act against terror outfits, Mukherjee said: “We have highlighted that the infrastructure of terrorism in Pakistan has to be dismantled permanently. This terrorist infrastructure in Pakistan is the greatest terrorist danger to peace and security of the entire civilised world.”

Islamabad, however, continued to remain in the denial mode.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi insisted that his country had not received evidence about Pakistani involvement in the Mumbai killings. He said India should provide evidence for further investigation.

Pakistan Air Force (PAF) jets flew over major cities amid reports quoting US sources that India may attack Pakistan. The PAF flights over Lahore and Rawalpindi created panic and generated rumours that India had launched an attack against the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and other jihadi organisations.

Television channels quickly went on the air to dispel the rumours. GEO TV, quoting a PAF spokesman, said the air force had only stepped up vigilance and was on high alert.

Other channels also quoted officials to say that Pakistani forces were on alert but dispelled speculation of an Indian attack. Media reports said all Pakistani airports are on high alert.

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