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India signals it won't act alone on Pakistan

December 24, 2008|Peter Spiegel

NEW DELHI — India's prime minister signaled Tuesday that his government would not act unilaterally against the extremist networks allegedly behind last month's Mumbai terrorist attacks, attempting to ease tensions over accusations that Pakistan is not hunting down the militants on its territory.

Speaking after meeting with India's ambassador corps, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he would rely on international pressure to push Pakistan into taking action against groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, which India and its Western allies believe orchestrated the attacks.

"The issue is not war. The issue is terror and territory in Pakistan being used to provoke, to aid and abet terrorism," Singh told reporters. "Nobody wants war."

Singh's comments came after days of increasingly heated rhetoric on both sides and military maneuvers by the Pakistanis. On Monday, Pakistan scrambled fighter jets over several of its major cities, citing the need to step up "vigilance."

The sorties came after India's foreign minister told the same gathering of ambassadors, who are in New Delhi for three days of meetings, that "we will take all measures necessary as we deem fit" to deal with terrorist threats. The statement appeared to put military action back on the table after weeks of insistence that India would rely on diplomacy.

Tensions have been building between the nuclear-armed rivals since the Nov. 26 attacks, in which more than 170 people were killed. India has insisted it has evidence the attackers were Pakistani nationals and had backing from Lashkar, which is based in Pakistan's lawless eastern tribal regions.

India cites evidence, including a letter sent to the Pakistani Embassy here by the lone suspected gunman to be captured, Ajmal Amir Kasab, in which Indian officials said Kasab acknowledged his Pakistani citizenship. But the government in Islamabad insists that India has insufficient evidence to tie the attack to Pakistani elements.

At a news conference in Islamabad on Tuesday, Rehman Malik, head of Pakistan's Interior Ministry, said his government had no record of anyone with Kasab's name and said India had yet to provide Pakistan with adequate evidence to investigate ties to the Nov. 26 attackers.

Singh appeared to ratchet down the rhetoric, however, saying he expected the international community to persuade Pakistan to act on its own to shut down the "terrorist machine" that operates on Pakistani soil.

"That is our demand, and I believe it is in the interest of the people of India and in the interest of the people of Pakistan also," Singh said.

At the same time, in his address to Indian ambassadors, Singh clearly linked extremist groups like Lashkar to people within the Pakistani government.

Singh reportedly said that "non-state actors" were being aided by "state establishments" -- a clear reference to extremist groups that have worked closely with Pakistani intelligence in the past.

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peter.spiegel@latimes.com

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