Thursday, December 11, 2008
India Vows No Retaliation
NEW DELHI — Calling Pakistan the epicenter of terrorist attacks against India, the Indian foreign minister on Thursday urged the government there to do more than detain leaders of extremist groups, even as he all but ruled out the prospect of a military confrontation.
Rather, India’s foreign minister, Pranab Mukherjee, told members of Parliament that India would take time to turn off the tap of support for militant groups operating across the border, and that war was “no solution.”
“We shall have to patiently confront it,” he said. “We have no intention to be provoked.”
In Pakistan, the government signaled limited moves against a charity widely believed to act as a front for the militant group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, that Indian and American intelligence officials say was behind the Mumbai attacks last month. Security officials surrounded the home of Hafiz Saeed, a founder of both the militant group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and the charity, Jamaat-ud-Dawa.
“Police have encircled the house of Hafiz Saeed in Lahore and told him he cannot go out of the home,” said Abdullah Montazir, his spokesman, according to Reuters. “They have told him detention orders will be formally served to him shortly.
Mr. Mukherjee, speaking in Parliament’s first session since the three-day siege of Mumbai, reiterated India’s demand for Pakistan to hand over about 40 fugitives and suspects whom it says are taking shelter in Pakistan. His comments seemed to avoid directly criticizing the president of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, and his democratically elected government.
Shortly after the Mumbai attacks, Mr. Zardari described the terror suspects as “nonstate actors” over whom the Pakistani government had no control. On Thursday, that statement met with a stinging retort from Mr. Mukherjee.
“Are they nonstate actors coming from heaven, or they are coming from a different planet?” Mr. Mukherjee asked. “Nonstate actors are operating from a particular country. What we are most respectfully submitting, suggesting to the government of Pakistan: Please act. Mere expression of intention is not adequate.”
It was India’s first response to Pakistan’s crackdown on camps and leaders of Lashkar-e-Taiba, accused in the Mumbai attacks that killed 163 people, along with 9 gunmen. Pakistani officials in Islamabad announced the arrests earlier this week.
In Islamabad, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said Pakistan “has taken note” of the United Nations Security Council declaration late Wednesday that a charity based in Pakistan, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, was a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba and subject to United Nations sanctions including the freezing of its assets and a travel ban on four of its leaders. One leader was Zaki ur-Rehman Lakhvi, whom the Pakistani government said it arrested Sunday.
A statement from Mr. Gilani’s office said he told the American deputy secretary of state, John D. Negroponte, that Pakistan “would fulfill its international obligations,” Reuters reported. The Interior Ministry issued a statement saying Jamaat-ud-Dawa would be put under monitoring and its offices sealed if necessary, Reuters said.
In Lahore on Thursday, Mr. Saeed, the founder of the group, criticized the United Nations’ decision, saying that his charity was a legitimate organization with no links to terrorism, Agence France-Presse reported. Mr. Saeed publicly disowned Lashkar-e-Taiba after it was outlawed by Pakistan in 2002.
“The Security Council took this decision without giving any us any opportunity to respond,” Mr. Saeed said, according to the agency. “We are not prepared to accept this decision, which was taken in haste. We do not accept terrorism, killing innocent people, or carrying out suicide attacks. This has always been our stand.”
On Wednesday, Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, praised the actions taken by the Pakistani authorities, but noted that the United States viewed the actions only as initial measures to deal with the crisis.
“These are first steps, and so there are more steps to follow,” Admiral Mullen told reporters in Washington. “But they’ve moved pretty quickly with respect to these arrests, with respect to shutting down some of the camps. And all of that, I think, is very positive.”
Mr. Mukherjee on Thursday also delivered a message to allies and rivals abroad: India would not be dragged into discussions about Kashmir, which the minister described as a domestic problem.
“This is not an India-Pakistan issue,” he said, referring to the attacks. “This is not an issue related to Jammu and Kashmir. This is a part of global terrorism.”
The home minister, Palaniappan Chidambaram, announced an overhaul of the nation’s intelligence network in a speech to Parliament on Thursday, fulfilling a pledge from the government in the immediate aftermath of the siege. Mr. Chidambaram, the country’s principal law enforcement official, had previously acknowledged lapses in the security forces’ preparedness for the attacks.
He said “the finger of suspicion” points at “our neighbor,” clearly meaning Pakistan. Mr. Chidambaram succeeded Shivraj Patil, who resigned after the attacks in Mumbai.
The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party also pledged Thursday to stand by the government. “We should not be fooled by this kind of operation,” Lal Krishna Advani, the opposition leader, said of Pakistan’s response so far.
The Indian security forces’ slow response to the attack “exposed their lack of intelligence and lax approach to law and order,” said Farhana Ali, a South Asia terrorism expert and former analyst for RAND Corporation, which researches policy and security issues.
The intelligence restructuring will bolster the coast guard and maritime forces, strengthen intelligence agencies with new personnel, establish a national investigative center and set up training courses for antiterrorism officers, police units and commando squads.
The violence in Mumbai began on the night of Nov. 26 and ended more than 60 hours later when the last of the gunmen was killed in a shootout with elite Indian commandos. The assault on the city was apparently staged, the Indian police have said, by a squad of 10 gunmen who used boats to approach Mumbai.
Nine militants were killed and one was captured.
Since the attacks, there has been an outpouring of anger across India.
Last week, tens of thousands of citizens stormed the Gateway of India, a famed waterfront monument near the Taj Mahal Palace & Tower hotel, one of the sites attacked, venting anger at their elected leaders. There were similar protests in New Delhi and the southern technology hubs of Bangalore and Hyderabad. All were organized spontaneously, with word spread through text messages and social networking Web sites like Facebook.
Indian citizens and police officials alike have expressed concern about follow-on attacks by terrorists who might have escaped during the mayhem of the assault.
The Indian police said they had foiled an attempt to destroy landmarks and wreak havoc in Mumbai early this year, breaking up a cell of Pakistani and Indian men.
The foiled plot also involved Lashkar-e-Taiba, which suggested that the militant group conceived its plan long in advance and has deeper contacts with radical Indian Muslims than investigators have been willing to concede. It also pointed out another significant security lapse by Indian intelligence and police forces, who months ago had glimpses of a blueprint for the Mumbai attacks and even a strong indication of the intended targets.Somini Sengupta reported from New Delhi and Robert F. Worth from Mumbai, India. Mark McDonald contributed reporting from Hong Kong and Eric Schmitt from Washington.
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