McCain opposes military action against Pakistan, wants hard evidence (Second Lead)

December 3rd, 2008 - 1:24 am ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaNew Delhi, Dec 2 (IANS) US Senator John McCain, the Republican candidate who lost the presidential race to Barack Obama, Tuesday said he was hopeful of Pakistan’s cooperation with India in the Mumbai terrorist attack probe and opposed a military strike against Islamabad. Underlining solidarity with India in the wake of the Nov 26 terror attacks, he said the US would not allow terrorists to provoke a confrontation between India and Pakistan.

“I assume the government of Pakistan will cooperate. They realise that this act of terror is not something that affects India but all the civilised nations,” McCain said.

“No,” he replied when asked whether the Mumbai attacks were a “fit case” for India to launch military action against Pakistan.

“We do not have hard evidence yet. Obviously, there are allegations that this organisation, this individual or this group were trained or operated or had some training in Pakistan,” said McCain.

“This government is committed to better relations between India and Pakistan. They (those behind the Mumbai carnage) tried to provoke a confrontation between India and Pakistan,” McCain told reporters here.

“This government will not allow it to happen,” he said, indicating a pro-active US role in thwarting any breakdown of dialogue between India and Pakistan in the wake of the Nov 26 terror strikes.

“Relations between India and Pakistan were on an improving path. That was one of the objectives of terrorists (to strain ties between the two countries),” McCain said.

He, however, hoped that Pakistan will cooperate in addressing India’s concerns over the terror strikes and show “transparency” in this connection.

“It is in the national interests of Pakistan to weaken these elements,” he replied when asked whether the US will put pressure on Islamabad to act against those elements in Pakistan whom India suspect to be behind the Mumbai attacks.

McCain, the Republican senator from Arizona, was on his way to Bangladesh and Bhutan but decided to make a brief stopover here in the wake of the Mumbai strikes that has killed 183 people, including six Americans, and left 239 people injured.

McCain was echoing anxieties in Washington about the repercussions of potential India-Pakistan confrontation on the US war against fundamentalists in Afghanistan.

If such a situation arises, Pakistan is likely to move its troops from the Afghan border to its border with India - a move which could damage the US hopes of defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan.

McCain’s trip to India comes a day before US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrives here in a bid to arrest the drift in fraying India-Pakistan ties in the wake of the terror attacks.

McCain, along with two other senators, Democrat Jospeh Lieberman and Lindsey O. Graham, called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh here and underlined the US’ solidarity with India in the fight against terrorism.

In their conversation with the prime minister, they offered to share the US’ experiences in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Lieberman said.

They also told the prime minister about the counter-terror steps he US has taken, including the creation of the department of homeland security and a national counter-terrorism centre, said Lieberman.

President George W. Bush and president-elect Obama are acting in close coordination over the Mumbai terror strikes, the Republican senator said while underlining bipartisan support in the US to India in the aftermath of the terror strikes.

“We would be meeting Pakistan General (Ashfaq) Kiyani over the weekend and raise some questions with him,” Liebermann told reporters here.

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