India waiting for Pakistan’s response, keeps options open (Second Lead, changing dateline)

December 2nd, 2008 - 7:10 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi/Islamabad, Dec 2 (IANS) India Tuesday kept its options open in dealing with Pakistan and said it was awaiting Islamabad’s response to its demand for strong action against militants based on its territory whom New Delhi blames for engineering Mumbai’s bloody terror strikes.Pakistan 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.

“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.

“Now, 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,” Mukherjee 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.

India had summoned Pakistan’s High Commissioner in New Delhi Shahid Malik Monday and lodged a formal protest, asking Islamabad to take strong action against those responsible for the Mumbai mayhem. The demarche also asked Pakistan to hand over 20 fugitives from Indian law who New Delhi believes are in Pakistan.

India’s “most wanted 20 list” includes known terror masterminds like mob boss Dawood Ibrahim, Maulana Masood Azhar, the founder of Jaish-e-Mohammad which was suspected behind the Dec 13, 2001 attacks on Indian parliament and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) chief Hafez Mohammed Sayeed. New Delhi has suspected these fugitives to be behind major terror strikes in India over the years.

Ongoing investigations into the Nov 26 Mumbai terror strikes have disclosed that the Mumbai attacks bore the imprint of LeT, a banned militant outfit which was created by Pakistan’s ISI to foment insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir. 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.

India is, however, keeping all its options open to keep pressure on Pakistan to act against militants who allegedly executed a string of coordinated attacks in Mumbai that killed 183 people and injured over 300.

“What will be done, time will show and you will come to know,” Mukherjee said in response to a query on US President-elect Barack Obama’s remarks that every country has the sovereign right to “protect” its citizens from such terror attacks.

“We appreciate the responses (from major global powers) which we have received from all over the world, including Obama,” Mukherjee said when asked to comment on media reports about a possible military action against the neighbouring country.

Pakistan has denied any link with the Mumbai blasts but has offered a joint team to investigate the terror attacks that are now threatening to derail the peace process between the two countries.

“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.

“We are ready to jointly go into the depth of this issue and we are ready to compose a team that could help you,” Qureshi added.

According to Qureshi, terrorism was the biggest challenge both Pakistan and India faced. “It’s a common enemy. We need to devise a joint strategy to deal with the situation,” he maintained.

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.

“Our composite dialogue was proceeding on the right path. It is in our bilateral interests to keep it constructive and continue with it,” Qureshi added.

“Nobody is talking of military action,” Mukherjee when asked to comment on media reports about a possible military action against the neighbouring country.

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