Pranab rules out military action; Rice arrives Wed

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi | Updated: Dec 3 2008, 06:55am hrs
India has said it was not contemplating military action against Pakistan in the wake of the Mumbai terror attack. Nobody is talking of military action, external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee told reporters. Mukherjees statement comes on the eve of the arrival of US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice in New Delhi on Wednesday.

Rice has expressed confidence that there will not be any conflict between the two neighbours. But she told reporters a day earlier that the US government wants Pakistan to ensure total transparency in sharing any details on the 26/11 attacks with India. Pakistan has now offered India a joint team to probe the Mumbai attacks and underlined that it would frame a response to New Delhis demand for handing over 20 of Indias most wanted men.

The international community is behind us, including the newly-elected US president, Barack Obama, Mukherjee said. In response to a query on US President-elect Barack Obamas remarks that every country had the sovereign right to protect its citizens from such terror attacks, Mukherjee said, What will be done, time will show.

Meanwhile, home minister P Chidambaram held a high-level meeting with top officials to strengthen the security set-up. The Intelligence Bureau chief, chairman of the joint intelligence committee, RAW chief, besides the national security advisor, the home secretary and the special secretary (internal security) attended the meeting. They also took stock of the large number of vacancies in the intelligence wing.

On the political front, the standoff to find a replacement for Maharashtra chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh continued. The Congress leadership in the evening held closed-door discussions to identify a successor, even as the chief minister persisted with last-minute lobbying to retain his chair. Deshmukh, who was summoned by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, has been trying to rustle up support among Maharashtra Congress MLAs. For Gandhi, the problem is finding a successor that can lead the Congress to victory in the coming Lok Sabha elections as well as assembly elections later next year.

At the same time, Congress options have been limited with alliance partner NCP having a say in the choice. Prithviraj Chavan, minister of state in the PMO, was rejected by the NCP. Power minister Sushil Kumar Shinde appeared to be the likely choice, but there now appears to be second thoughts about him, given that he is not a Maratha. The party is now looking at the option of Maharashtra industries minister Ashok Chavan.