India says all options open, wants Pakistan to act (Roundup)

December 3rd, 2008 - 1:11 am ICT by IANS  

New Delhi/Islamabad, Dec 2 (IANS) India Tuesday indicated it was keeping all options open, including a military strike against terrorist camps in Pakistan and suspension of bilateral dialogue, and underlined that it will take “appropriate action” to protect its territory from terror attacks emanating from the neighbouring country.”We will await the response from Pakistan to the demarche (formal protest note),” External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee told reporters here on the sidelines of a function to inaugurate the India-Arab Forum Tuesday morning.

“We have in our demarche asked for the arrests and handing over of those persons who are settled in Pakistan and who are fugitives under the Indian law,” he added.

“There are lists (containing the names) of about 20 persons. (These) lists are sometimes altered and this exercise is going on and we have reviewed it in our demarche,” Mukherjee said.

“What I am saying is every sovereign country has its right to protect its territorial integrity and take appropriate action as and when it feels it is necessary to take that appropriate action,” Mukherjee later told the NDTV news channel in an interview.

“As and when it takes place you will get to know. Nobody publicises or advertises it. I am not making any comment on military option,” he replied when asked whether he would rule out military option against terrorist groups like the Lashker-e-Toiba (LeT) which are suspected to have engineered the Mumbai terror strikes.

“What will be done, time will show and you will come to know,” Mukherjee said.

India’s “most wanted 20″ list includes known terror masterminds like mob boss Dawood Ibrahim, Maulana Masood Azhar, the founder of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) which was suspected behind the Dec 13, 2001 attack on the Indian parliament, and LeT chief Hafez Mohammed Sayeed.

New Delhi has suspected these fugitives to be behind major terror strikes in India over the years.

India has, however, not set a time-frame for Pakistan to the demarche it issued Monday that included the return of India’s 20 most wanted men, the dismantling of terrorist camps and the proscription of anti-India militant outfits.

“We have not set a time-frame for Pakistan’s response to our demarche. We will give them a reasonable amount of time,” a senior official said on condition of anonymity.

“All options are open. Nothing has been decided as yet,” he replied when asked what steps India will take in case Pakistan refuses to concede to its demands.

Pakistan has responded by offering India a joint team to probe the Mumbai attacks and underlined it will “frame a response” to New Delhi’s demand for handing over 20 of India’s most wanted men.

But India has cold-shouldered what it sees a diversionary ploy by Pakistan to impress the international community about its sincerity. “We want action on the ground,” the official said.

The bilateral composite dialogue process has not been stalled yet, but if Pakistan fails to address India’s concerns, New Delhi may decide to suspend the talks on the remaining items in the ongoing fifth round, said reliable sources, privy to the government’s thinking on the subject.

“There is a stress on the dialogue process. The atmosphere has been vitiated by the Mumbai attacks,” the official admitted.

The menu of likely actions by India in case of Pakistan’s refusal to act on the ground could include military action. But this last resort action is not being considered yet. “You can’t rule out anything. We will cross the bridge when it comes to it,” the official said.

Investigations have disclosed that the Nov 26 Mumbai terror strikes bore the imprint of LeT, a banned militant outfit.

The probe has produced enough damning evidence that led New Delhi to officially tell Islamabad Tuesday that it holds elements in Pakistan responsible for the Mumbai terror strikes.

Pakistan has denied any link with the Mumbai blasts.

“The government of Pakistan has offered a joint investigating mechanism and a joint commission to India,” Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said in a nationwide telecast in Islamabad.

At the same time, India and Pakistan should not allow their composite dialogue to get derailed in the wake of the Mumbai killings, he said.

“We want better relations… and it is in the larger interest of the two countries to continue the composite dialogue process.

With Pakistan in the denial mode, India Tuesday briefed envoys of those countries whose nationals were killed in the NOv 26 terror carnage about the investigation and underlined that New Delhi expected Islamabad to act against militants based in its territory who engineered it.

Vivek Katju, special secretary (Political and International Organisations), held a meeting with the envoys and expressed India’s deepest condolences to them.

The heads of missions from Germany, Canada, Japan, Singapore, Australia, Italy, Thailand, Israel and Mauritius were present at the meeting, official sources told IANS.

India’s diplomatic offensive comes in response to repeated denials by Pakistan and Islamabad’s frenzied calls to world capitals to convince the international community of its claimed innocence.

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