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Rice serves India's wish, threatens to act if Pak doesn't

BS Reporter  |  New Delhi 

The government is “happy” that the US has delivered a stern warning to Pakistan to act against terror and its “non-state players”. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has told Pakistan that her country has “irrefutable evidence” of the involvement of Pakistani elements in the Mumbai terror attacks.

Rice told Pakistan it had “no option but to act urgently… Otherwise, the US will act”.

This is exactly what India wanted. Before her Islamabad visit, Rice had come to New Delhi on an emergency tour after the Mumbai attacks. Last Wednesday, Rice asked External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee what message India expected her to convey to Paksitan.

India said the US must force the Zardari government to act against the non-state players. A top source in the external affairs ministry said: “We told them that even if they passed the buck on to the so-called non-state players, these players were operating from the soil of Pakistan so the Pakistan government could not shrug off its responsibilities.”

It was pointed out to Rice that after the Mumbai attack the United Progressive Alliance had not blamed the democratically-elected Pakistan government, headed by President Asif Ali Zardari, even once. The UPA’s target, when it mentioned Pakistan’s involvement, had always been its agencies and non-state players.

In fact, for the first time, the UPA government had decided to treat the Pakistan government differently from the terror outfits sponsored by the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and army for its diplomatic operations.

“Our new policy has started giving political dividends,” said a UPA minister.

Rice, according to reports, has “pushed” the elected Pakistani leadership to move against the perpetrators of the terror strikes. In India, Rice had assured the UPA government that “even the US has a lot of proof” of Pakistan’s involvement in terrorism.

New Delhi showed Rice extensive evidence gathered by investigators to prove the linkages between the Mumbai attackers and Pakistan-based elements, especially the banned Lashker-e-Toiba terror group.

In Islamabad, Rice met President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. She made it clear that Pakistan needed to act “effectively” to bring the perpetrators to justice. She warned that the “US will act if Pakistan did not”.

Rice also said that Pakistan “needs to act urgently and effectively to avert a strong international response”.

Meanwhile, the main opposition party in India, Bharatiya Janata Party, has decided to differ with this stand of the government and, according to its usual anti-Pak rhetoric, wants UPA to accept the Pakistan government’s involvement.

“The UPA must also accept that Pakistan has engaged in such terrorism as an instrument of state policy for almost two decades, that it has gone back on the pledge it gave in Islamabad on January 6, 2004, to not permit the soil of Pakistan to be used for this purpose. Unquestionably, Pakistan, as the crucible of terrorism, has by now become its principal exporter,” BJP said after its core committee meeting on Thursday.

The government is apprehensive that it may face pressure from the US and the Western world as 22 foreigners, including US nationals, died in the Mumbai terror attacks. But when Mukherjee raised the issue of the death of US nationals with Rice, she told him “not to be apologetic”. “Even we couldn’t save many Indians when the terrorists struck the twin towers on 9/11. I know how complex this fight against terror is,” she said.

The UPA understands that it can’t expect the US to totally side with India instead of Pakistan at this time. Keeping in mind that the US is heavily engaged with Pakistan to clear Pakistan’s western border along Afghanistan from Taliban and other terrorists, the UPA wants the US to pressure the Zardari administration to take credible steps against the non-state actors.

First Published: Sun, December 07 2008. 00:00 IST