Post-Mumbai attacks, all options open: Pranab (Lead)

January 1st, 2009 - 11:17 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 1 (IANS) India is keeping “all options open” in its response to the Mumbai carnage that it has blamed on elements operating from Pakistan but is not responsible for creating war hysteria on the sub-continent, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee said Thursday.”We are keeping all options open,” Mukherjee said in an interview to NDTV news channel.

“The issue is not war between India and Pakistan. The issue is how to tackle terror that is emanating from the soil of Pakistan,” the minister maintained.

Responding to a question on the war clouds that were threatening to gather over the subcontinent, Mukherjee said: “We have not spread any war hysteria. We have not escalated (the situation), so where is the question of de-escalating?”

Pakistan Tuesday urged India to de-activate its forward air bases and move troops back to their peacetime locations. India vehemently denied it had moved any troops to the forward areas.

Mukherjee also said the FBI had shared “strong evidence” relating to the Mumbai terror attacks with Pakistan and it was now for Islamabad to act on this.

“We have been told the FBI has strong evidence which they have shared with Pakistan. They (the Pakistani government) should act on that evidence and hand over the perpetrators of Mumbai to us,” the minister said.

He also said an extradition treaty was not needed for Pakistan to hand over the three suspects - mob boss Dawood Ibrahim, Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Maulana Masood Azhar and Zaki ur-Rehman Lakhvi of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) that India says staged the Nov 26-29 attacks that left over 170 people, including 26 foreigners, dead.

In response to a question, Mukherjee lamented that US pressure on Pakistan to act against the Mumbai perpetrators had “not produced tangible returns”.

Mukherjee’s statements came on the day the New York Times reported that Pakistani authorities had obtained confessions from LeT members that they were involved in the Mumbai carnage.

“The confessions are sure to put pressure on Pakistan’s leaders; senior Pakistani officials have repeatedly complained in recent weeks that India had not provided them evidence of Pakistani complicity,” NYT noted in a despatch from Islamabad.

US and British officials - and Indian investigators - have said for weeks that their intelligence clearly points to the involvement of the LeT in the Mumbai mayhem.

“That evidence has been deeply uncomfortable for Pakistan, whose premier spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, helped create, finance and train Lashkar in the 1980s to fight a proxy war against Indian forces in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir,” the NYT said.

“But now, after weeks of stonewalling, it also seems clear that Pakistan may use its investigation to make the case that the Mumbai attackers were not part of a conspiracy carried out with the spy agency, known as the ISI, but that the militants were operating on their own and outside the control of government agents,” the newspaper added.

NYT quoted a Pakistani official as saying that the “most talkative” of the Lashkar leaders being interrogated is Zarar Shah, the group’s communications chief, who has served as a conduit between the LeT and the ISI.

“His close ties to the agency and his admission of involvement in the attacks are sure to be unsettling for the government and its spy agency,” the newspaper said.

The Wall Street Journal had Wednesday reported the news of Shah’s confession. NYT said Lakhvi is also said to be cooperating with investigators.

“These guys showed no remorse,” NYT quoted the Pakistani official as saying. “They were bragging. They didn’t need to be pushed, tortured or waterboarded” into making their statements, it added.

The confessions, however, made no mention of any involvement by the Pakistani government, the official said, adding: “They talk about people acting on their own.”

On Thursday, a Pakistani newspaper reported that a five-member FBI team had visited Faridkot, the ancestral hometown Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone terrorist captured alive during the Mumbai terror attacks.

FBI director for South Asia William Robert headed the team.

FBI spokesman Richard Kolko, when contacted by the daily Dawn in Washington to comment on the team’s Wednesday visit, said: “The FBI continues to assist Indian authorities with their investigation. We will work with the Indian authorities and our partners to follow leads wherever they may take us.”

Asked if an FBI team had visited Faridkot, Kolko replied: “We are unable to provide details of what is being done. We refer you to Indian authorities or the US State Department for any additional information.”

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