This is an eyewitness report from the NowPublic member Sanjay Jha who is on the scene.
India demands Pakistan turn over terrorists before Condoleezza Rice visit
By Sanjay Jha in Mumbai
Just ahead of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s visit to New Delhi, India has stepped up pressure on Pakistan to hand over all suspected terrorists taking refuge in that country.
India alleges that one of the most wanted terrorists, Dawood Ibrahim, is purportedly hiding in Pakistan. Pakistan has always refuted his presence on their territory. Both countries have been trading charges about him for a long time. He is wanted for orchestrating India’s first serial bomb blasts and for slew of other charges.
Much before the world saw devastation in New York and London, India faced a serial bomb blast in its commercial capital Mumbai. He is considered the main person behind the serial bomb attacks in 1993 in which more than 250 people died in 13 coordinated bombings.
Indian allegations about Pakistani involvement in the Mumbai terror have come after the questioning of one of the surviving attackers, Amir Kasab, 21, who apparently told the Indian officials that he had been sent to Mumbai by Dawood Ibrahim after having undergone training in Pakistan.
However, Pakistan has been quick to dismiss Indian allegations as baseless. Pakistani authorities have denied any connection to the attacks. The Pakistani government has asked to be involved in the investigation into the incident, offering to send its highest level spy chief to India, but later rescinded the offer, apparently due to Indian objections, and decided to send lower level investigators instead.
During the peace overtures between the two countries India has handed over the list of wanted terrorists but Pakistan has never acted on India’s request. Bolstered with fresh evidence and Mumbai terror attack Indian government had again demanded handing over the wanted terrorists and gave Pakistani officials a list of 20 wanted. The diplomatic wrangling has intensified after the Mumbai bombing and India has openly accused Pakistani hand in the latest Mumbai terror attack.
Apart from handing over the terrorists India has asked Pakistani officials to take strong action against the terrorist group operating in Pakistan and make matter worse for Pakistan now even the USA has clearly told Islamabad to act fast upon Indian request.
Struggling with a financial crisis the Pakistani establishment appears confused with this sudden development. While the civilian government wants to have better relations with its mighty neighbor India, the Army is against any softening of Pakistan’s stand and Pakistan’s U turn was apparently due to the Army’s pressure on the civilian government.
Now before leaving Washington for New Delhi, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has asked Pakistan to help India in the terror probe. She made it clear to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari that Pakistan needs to be transparent and get its name cleared from any terror links. Ms. Rice is taking a trip down and planning to visit India and Pakistan to control mounting tensions between the two nuclear armed South Asian neighbors.
Meanwhile in Mumbai, the probe in the attack is taking a global shape. For the first time so many foreign agencies have started their own probe in Mumbai terror attack. Indian authorities have consistently refused to take help from any country. India only wanted help from Pakistani agencies to track down Islamic outfits operating there. Mumbai is teeming with agencies from Israel, USA, Australia and UK. They have been visiting the terror sites and seeking information from Indian Police.
The ruling coalition of the Indian government is also under extreme pressure to deliver. General elections are round the corner and common people are venting their anger with government’s handling of terror in recent times.
The opposition Hindu hardliner Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) has lambasted the government for its failure to check terror attacks. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is now harping on the terror attacks in Mumbai to make electoral gains in ongoing provincial elections and also looks to make it a big election plank in the coming general elections.