India steps up pressure on Pakistan to deliver on assurances (Roundup)

December 16th, 2008 - 7:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Srinagar/New Delhi, Dec 16 (IANS) In a sign of growing impatience with “assurances” from Islamabad, India Tuesday asked Pakistan to fulfill its anti-terror pledge by dismantling the infrastructure of terrorism and renewed calls for returning 40 people wanted by New Delhi for various crimes and terrorist activities. New Delhi, however, ruled out military action against Pakistan but made it clear that bilateral relations would not be normal until Islamabad takes action against terrorists operating from its soil.

Ratcheting up pressure on Pakistan to take “credible action” against terrorists in the wake of the Mumbai attacks, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee asked Islamabad to show its seriousness by handing over Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Maulana Masood Azhar, suspected of plotting the Dec 13, 2001 attack on the Indian parliament.

In his most explicit remarks on Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Maulana Masood Azhar, Mukherjee demanded that Pakistan return him to India, which freed him following the 1999 hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane to Afghanistan.

Mukherjee said the list of 40 people in Pakistan India is seeking for various crimes included both Indians and Pakistanis and that the names had been submitted over a period of time. “We want them to return them.”

Alluding to the Pakistan government’s claim that it had nothing with some of the persons, Mukherjee referred to the Jaish chief Azhar, who was one of the three prisoners India freed under duress after terrorists hijacked an Indian Airlines plane from Kathmandu to Kandahar in Afghanistan.

“One gentleman was in Indian custody. A plane was hijacked from a third country. It was taken to another country, Kandahar in Afghanistan, and the hijackers demanded that you release that person and hand (him) over us so that we release the Indian passengers and the Indian aircraft. Otherwise they will be killed.

“When international pressure is mounted, he is placed under house arrest… What is the difficulty in handing him over to us? Hijacking is an international crime.”

Referring to promises made by then and present Pakistan presidents, Pervez Musharraf and Asif Ali Zardari, to not allow terrorists to use Pakistani territory against India, the minister said: “We want those assurances to be fulfilled. We want that the infrastructure facilities available (to terrorists in Pakistan) be dismantled.”

Mukherjee’s comments follow Islamabad’s insistence that Pakistan has nothing to do with the Nov 26-29 terrorist mayhem in Mumbai that killed over 170 people, including 26 foreigners. Pakistan says the lone terrorist caught in Mumbai is not a Pakistani.

Mukherjee added that India expected the various India-Pakistan mechanisms dealing with the problem of terrorism such as the dialogues between home and foreign secretaries to yield results.

“We expect good sense will prevail (in Pakistan)… Words must be followed by action.”

While ruling out military action against Pakistan, Defence Minister A.K. Antony added that bilateral relations would not be normal until Islamabad takes action against terrorists operating from its soil.

“We are not planning any military action… but at the same time unless Pakistan takes actions against those terrorists who are operating from their soil against India and also against all those who are behind the Mumbai terrorist attack, things will not be normal,” he said.

The minister was speaking to reporters at the India Gate monument in the capital after laying a wreath on the occasion of Vijay Diwas that marks the 37th anniversary of the Indian victory over Pakistan.

“I cannot say what course of action we will take but, unless Pakistan shows sincerity in whatever they are saying through their actions, one thing is very sure - that there is no question of things as usual,” said Antony.

Antony also said the armed forces were prepared for any eventuality. The three forces are on “high alert” following hightened tensions between the two neighbours in the wake of the Mumbai terror strike, which left over 170 dead and over 300 injured.

“Everything is normal because our forces are always ready.”

In a related development, India said the remarks of Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN seeking to link an Islamic seminary in India to jehadis in Pakistan were “indeed regrettable”.

“Statements by the Pakistani permanent representative (Abdullah Hussain Haroon) are indeed regrettable,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Vishnu Prakash said.

“The Darul Uloom Deoband is one of our highly respected institutions of Islamic learning,” he said, alluding to the leading centre of Islamic learning in India in western Uttar Pradesh, located over 100 km from New Delhi.

The spokesperson also said that the Jamiat-Ulama-i-Hind had complained to the external affairs ministry on the matter.

The Jamiat-Ulama-i-Hind, an organisation of leading Muslim clerics in India comprising mainly Deoband clerics, was founded in 1866 and opposed the two-nation theory that became the basis of the creation of Pakistan.

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