Pak must act with resolve and urgency, cooperate fully: Rice

Written by Political Bureau | Agencies | New Delhi | Updated: Dec 4 2008, 08:07am hrs
Arriving in India exactly a week after terrorists struck Mumbai, US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice urged Pakistan on Wednesday to cooperate fully and transparently in investigations into the Mumbai attacks. Speaking before meeting foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee, home minister

P Chidambaram and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Rice pressed the Indian government to show restraint amid indications that Pakistani terrorists carried out the attacks.

This is the time for everybody to cooperate and do so transparently, and this is especially a time for Pakistan to do so, Rice told a press conference. Rice cut short a visit to Europe and flew to India as tensions soared in South Asia. She is expected to visit Pakistan as well, officials in Islamabad said. Pakistan needs to act with resolve and urgency and cooperate fully and transparently. That message has been delivered and will be delivered to Pakistan, Rice said.

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, meanwhile, said he doubted Indian claims that Ajmal Ameer Kasab, the lone surviving terrorist, was Pakistani. We have not been given any tangible proof to say that he is definitely a Pakistani. I very much doubt... that hes a Pakistani, Zardari told CNNs Larry King Live, adding that if given evidence his government would take action.

Zardari also signalled he would not accept an Indian demand to hand over 20 of its most wanted men that New Delhi says are living in Pakistan, saying if there was any evidence, they would be tried by his countrys judiciary. However, Islamabad has said it will send a representative of the ISI to India to assist in the probe into the Mumbai attacks, but modalities for this visit are yet to be worked out. Pakistan withdrew an earlier decision to send the ISI chief Shuja Pasha to India.

In other efforts to ease tensions between the two neighbours, the top US military commander flew into Islamabad. Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will hold talks with Pakistans civilian government and its powerful military, officials said.

The Indian foreign minister said military action was not being considered, but later warned that a peace process begun in 2004 was at risk if Pakistan did not act decisively. Of course the atmosphere has been vitiated. Cant you see the outrage of the Indian people Every Indian feels hurt, feels injured. Is it a conducive atmosphere Mukherjee told a television channel.

Several key meetings scheduled to be held this and next month as part of the fifth round of the composite dialogue are now unlikely to take place, diplomatic sources said. The defence secretaries of the two countries were expected to meet in January to discuss the Siachen issue. Other important meetings affected are those between the secretaries for commerce, culture and water resources.

A visit by the Planning Commission to Islamabad has also been put off.

Underscoring the gravity of the regional tension, US President-elect Barack Obama is considering naming veteran diplomat Richard Holbrooke as a special envoy to South Asia, according to the Washington Post. Obamas chief spokeswoman for national security, Brooke Anderson, tamped down the report, saying, We have no plans for an envoy, as there is one President at a time and we intend to respect that.

With Indias coastal security already breached by terrorists in Mumbai, defence minister AK Antony on Wednesday warned the armed forces of possible terror attacks from airborne platforms similar to the 9/11 attacks in the US. Antony asked them to be prepared to counter the threat of terrorists from the air and prevent a repeat of World Trade Centre-type of attacks carried out by the al Qaida.

At a meeting with the three services chief and defence officials, Antony called for greater coordination among all security and intelligence agencies so as to make the intelligence inputs actionable. The top defence brass discussed plans to beef up coastal security and hasten the acquisition of coastal radars and interceptor boats. Congress president Sonia Gandhi, addressing an election rally in the border town of Uri in Jammu & Kashmir, said, India wants peaceful relations with all its neighbours, but this should not be taken as a weakness.

The BJP, on the other hand, has asked the government to approach the UN Security Council and press the world body to mount pressure on Pakistan. Under UN resolutions, all countries are obliged to act against terror. Pakistan at this point cannot walk away from its international commitment. India should build pressure on Pakistan through the UN, party spokesperson Ravi Shanker Prasad said.

Far away from the Capitals political developments, at Ground Zero in Mumbai, hundreds of residents gathered near the Gateway of India opposite the Taj Mahal hotel for a protest rally to condemn the terrorist attack and pay respects to the victims. People carrying candles and placards in memory of the victims reached the Gateway, some of them in processions via Dadabhai Naoroji Road and paid tributes to those who had fallen to the terrorists bullets and grenades, including policemen and NSG commandos. People were seen shouting slogans against politicians, blaming them for the state of affairs in the country.