Britain blames Lashkar for Mumbai, India snubs Miliband (Roundup)

January 15th, 2009 - 11:01 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi/Mumbai, Jan 15 (IANS) Britain Thursday again blamed the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) for the Mumbai terror attack even as India snubbed British Foreign Secretary David Miliband for linking Jammu and Kashmir with terrorism. Speaking in Mumbai, Miliband reiterated that the Mumbai attacks were carried out by LeT from the territory of Pakistan and that “those who were responsible must be brought to justice”.

“We have been pressing Pakistan to take urgent and effective action to break up the terror networks on its soil,” he said at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel that was one of the key targets of terrorists during the Nov 26-29 mayhem.

India has blamed the attacks, which killed over 170 people, on terrorists from Pakistan. Islamabad denies any link.

“When I visit Islamabad later this week, I will underline that there must be zero tolerance for such organisations,” he added. “Pakistani authorities need to detain people and take further action like prosecution and action against them if found guilty,” he later told reporters.

“We need to hold the Pakistani government to their promise that people caught should be put through their judicial system and then punished,” he added.

Miliband called for restraint by India and Pakistan to defuse tensions between them.

“Instead of easy paths of accusation and counter accusation, confrontation and escalation, when I speak to the leaders of India and Pakistan, I argue for the more difficult but much more effective choice of cooperation…”

But Miliband’s condemnation of Pakistan-based terrorist groups did not earn him brownie points in India, where the government came down heavily on him after he tried to draw a link between terrorism and the issue of Jammu and Kashmir. He made the remarks in an article in The Guardian.

The British minister said in the article oublished Thursday that a “resolution of the dispute over Kashmir would help deny extremists in the region one of their main calls to arms, and allow Pakistani authorities to focus more effectively on tackling the threat on their western borders”.

The external affairs ministry reacted sharply, saying it did not need “unsolicited advice on internal issues”.

“Miliband is entitled to his views, which are clearly his own and are evolving. India is a free country and, even if we do not share his views, he is free to express them,” ministry spokesperson Vishnu Prakash said. “However, we do not need unsolicited advice on internal issues in India like Jammu and Kashmir.”

Britain tried to downplay Miliband’s remarks, saying they needed to be seen in the right context.

“Our support for India is clear. The remarks have to be seen in the right perspective,” Dan Chugg, spokesperson of the British high commission, told IANS.

Miliband charmed his audience in Mumbai with a forceful espousal of a new approach on terrorism that goes beyond the military option.

“Terrorism was not invented or started on 9/11. But since then, the notion of a ‘war on terror’ has defined the terrain,” he said.

“For a couple of years now, the British government has neither used the idea nor the phrase ‘war on terror’. The reason is ultimately, the notion is misleading and mistaken.”

He said the notion of ‘war on terror’ gave the impression of a unified, transnational enemy, embodied in the figure of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda.

“In fact, as India has long known, the forces of violent extremism remain diverse. Terrorism is a deadly tactic, not an institution or an ideology,” he said.

British columnist Melanie Phillips described Miliband’s comments in The Guardian as “shallow and ignorant”.

“To say that Lashker-e-Taiba’s cause is merely Kashmir… is simply risible,” she wrote on the online edition of The Spectator magazine.

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