India tenders 26/11 evidence, asks Pakistan to hand over suspects (Intro Roundup)

January 5th, 2009 - 10:51 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi/Islamabad, Jan 5 (IANS) Moving beyond the daily war of words, India Monday scaled up pressure on Islamabad by handing over evidence linking Pakistan-based militants to the Mumbai carnage and asked Islamabad to extradite terror suspects so that they can “face Indian justice”. In a pointed message to Islamabad, Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon made it clear that the “commando-like attack” in Mumbai could not have happened without anybody in the Pakistan establishment knowing about it.

“The crime may have been committed in India, but the conspiracy behind the crime was planned in Pakistan,” Menon told reporters hours after handing over the material linking elements in Pakistan to the Mumbai terror strike to Pakistan’s High Commissioner Shahid Malik Monday morning.

As the US and the international community rallied behind India in “an unprecedented level” of solidarity, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said: “What happened in Mumbai was an unpardonable crime.”

“As far as the government of Pakistan is concerned, we ask only that it implement the bilateral commitments that it has made at the highest levels to India, and practice her international obligations. These are clear,” he said.

“It is my hope that the world will unite to achieve the goal of eliminating the threat of such terrorism,” Mukherje stressed, urging Pakistan to honour its pledge not to allow its territory to be used as a launching pad for terror attacks against India.

Mukherjee also wrote to his counterparts around the world “giving them details of the events in Mumbai and describing in some detail the progress” in India’s investigation into the attack and the evidence it has collected.

Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon reinforced this message later in the day and underlined the need for “real action” by Pakistan in bringing the perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks to Indian justice.

“We are no longer interested in words, in mechanisms; we want actual actions against perpetrators,” Menon replied when asked about the fate of the anti-terror mechanism India and Pakistan set up in 2006 in the wake of the terrorist attacks on Mumbai’s commuter trains.

“We expect them to investigate the material and share the results. It’s a question of substance, and not form,” he said.

“We have given them material that has come out of our investigation… that leads to Pakistan. All the material leads to elements in Pakistan. We expect them to investigate, share the results with us. We will take it from there.”

“Under several international instruments, Pakistan is obliged to extradite terrorists. A Pakistani who has committed a crime elsewhere does not enjoy immunity,” Menon said when asked whether India expected Pakistan to extradite the Mumbai suspects despite the absence of an extradition treaty between the two countries.

Menon said under the SAARC convention, Pakistan was obliged to hand over the Mumbai attackers to India.

The material given to Pakistan includes extracts from the interrogation of Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone terrorist captured alive in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, and details of the terrorists’ communication links with elements in Pakistan during the strike.

The evidence shared also includes recovered weapons and equipment and other articles and data retrieved from recovered GPS and satellite phones of the Mumbai attackers.

“It is hard to believe that something of this scale … which looked like a commando operation, could occur without anybody anywhere in the establishment knowing about it,” Menon said in a veiled allusion to growing suspicion about the involvement of Pakistan’s spy agency Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) in the Mumbai attacks.

Menon, however, did not make clear whether the evidence shared included the names of the handlers of the Mumbai attackers.

“The relationship which the LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba) has enjoyed with the ISI is history. It’s a very thin line,” Menon said when asked whether he suspected the ISI to be behind the attacks.

India believes the LeT, a banned Pakistan-based militant group that reinvented itself under a new name, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, to be responsible for the Mumbai carnage.

“We want Pakistani authorities to share with us all the information related to crime, how this conspiracy was hatched, carried out, planned out and its actual handling,” he stressed.

“We don’t think there is any such thing as a non-state actor,” Menon asserted in reference to Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari labelling the terrorists as non-state actors.

The external affairs ministry will be briefing all resident heads of missions about the links between the Mumbai mayhem and Pakistan-based elements.

Indian ambassadors around the world will also brief the respective governments on the same.

“We have begun the process of briefing friendly governments on the evidence gathered after the Mumbai attacks, especially those countries who lost their nationals. This will continue,” said Menon.

“We have seen an unprecedented level of support. The international response has been very heartening,” Menon said when asked whether the international community was doing enough to pressurize Pakistan in acting against terrorist infrastructure.

“The links lead to Pakistan. The primary responsibility is for Pakistan to act,” he said.

“We need to see credible proof of sincerity,” Menon said while singling out the new banner under which the banned JuD is operating in Pakistan.

“Nobody from Pakistan has officially told us that some people had been arrested. The JuD is updating its website and several of its organisations are working. What we have seen so far does not impress us,” Menon said.

As pressure mounted, Pakistan said it was reviewing the material given to it by Indian authorities.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesperson Muhammad Sadiq told IANS in Islamabad that the material has been received in Pakistan “and is being examined by the concerned authorities”. He, however, did not give any timeframe for a reply to the Indian authorities.

In a conciliatory note, Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani told US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher in Islamabad that his government was ready to cooperate with India in the investigations and wants peace in the region.

“It is our expectation that the government of Pakistan will promptly undertake further investigations in Pakistan and share the results with us so as to bring the perpetrators to justice,” Mukherjee said.

The US also pitched in and said an FBI team would take the evidence it had gathered to Islamabad and pursue to its logical conclusion the investigations into the terror strike that killed more than 170 people, including six Americans and 20 other foreign nationals.

“The FBI will pursue the evidence gathered there (in Mumbai) and they will eventually take the evidence to Pakistan because under our law, if Americans are killed, the US itself has a duty to pursue all avenues to the bottom of it,” US Ambassador David C. Mulford said in New Delhi.

According to home ministry officials, the FBI has conducted a parallel probe into the attacks and has been helpful in decoding the Voice-over Internet Protocol calls made by Pakistani handlers to the terrorists when the Mumbai attack was on.

The US envoy also expressed Washington’s displeasure with a reported move by the JuD to regroup itself under a new banner. “The name may have changed. You don’t change the spots in a leopard,” Mulford said.

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