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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

India cannot bypass concerns on terror, says Rao

17 Mar 2010

NEW DELHI: India delivered a strong message on terror to Pakistan even as Islamabad continued to make wild allegations of Indian involvement in the Lahore attacks and insurgency in Balochistan. Foreign secretary Nirupama Rao warned against interpreting Indian restraint towards Pakistan as weakness and highlighted Indian efforts to reach out to Islamabad.

“We have consistently emphasised the need for governments concerned to act decisively to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism and to effectively deal with groups that perpetrate it... our restraint should not be confused with weakness or unwillingness to act against those that seek to harm our people, create insecurity and hamper our developmental goals,” she said in an speech that was aimed as much at Islamabad as Washington, which wants normalisation of ties between India and Pakistan.

She further said that India could not just bypass the concerns on terror and go about business as usual by resuming the composite dialogue process. ``It is very, very difficult to be convinced in such a situation that we should set aside these concerns and just move on,’’ she said but added that the door for dialogue had never been shut. Ms Rao, who is on a six day visit to the US, was speaking at the Woodrow Wilson Centre in Washington. She also made it clear that India has no plans to downscale its presence in Afghanistan following the targeting of Indian nationals in Afghanistan by terror elements.

``We are not scaling down our operations in Afghanistan, we are taking all necessary security measures to safeguard Indian lives there,” she said and called the February 26 Kabul attack as a “barbaric attack against Indians engaged in humanitarian and development work in Afghanistan”.

Any downscaling of Indian presence would be widely welcomed in Pakistan which has been seeking a reduction of Indian involvement in Afghanistan while looking at increasing its own presence. Focusing on Pakistan, the foreign secretary also pointed out that persons who were identified by the world as terrorists were making open threats against India. “I did not want to bring the name of Hafiz Saeed and Jamaat-ud-Dawa and the LeT... we feel (they) continue to roam, to speak, have unhindered access to media, to channels to communicate that agenda (of violence).. that effects us. Our people are concerned about it,” Ms Rao said.

She also alluded to the impatience within India against the continued export of terror from Pakistan. The general feeling in India right now is: “We have suffered too much for too long,” she said. Ms Rao, who is in the US to co-chair a meeting of the India-United States High Technology Cooperation Group (HTCG), is scheduled to meet US secretary of state Hillary Clinton and other top US officials.

India has continued to make the point that selective targeting of terror elements would not yield the required results either in Afghanistan or Pakistan. ``Distinctions made between the various terrorist outfits are now meaningless, since they are now in effect fused both operationally and ideologically,” she said.

Another point that India has been making repeatedly is a cautious approach to pouring in large amounts of military aid to Pakistan. Ms Rao said there should be strict accountability criteria on US defence assistance rendered to Pakistan.

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