India Delivers Diplomatic Ultimatum to Pakistan
Indranil Banerjie, Inter Press Service
New Delhi - India's Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee said Monday that his government has delivered a dossier to Pakistan containing evidence of the involvement of Pakistanis in the Mumbai massacre - an act that strategic experts say amounts to an ultimatum to bring the perpetrators to Indian justice.
A man reads the Koran in Siliguri, India. India issued an ultimatum to Pakistan on Monday. (Photo: Reuters)
Signalling that India is not prepared to accept further vacillation by Pakistan on its demand to extradite the terrorist masterminds responsible for the terrorist strike, Mukherjee said: "We have today handed over to Pakistan evidence of the links with elements in Pakistan of the terrorists who attacked Mumbai on 26 November, 2008."
"What happened in Mumbai was an unpardonable crime," Mukherjee said. "As far as the government of Pakistan is concerned, we ask only that it implement the bilateral commitments that it has made at the highest levels to India."
Mukherjee's press conference came just after India's High Commissioner to Pakistan, Satyabrata Pal, met Pakistan Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir at the Foreign Office in Islamabad to hand over, what was officially described as "an information dossier on the status of investigations thus far by India into the Mumbai terrorist attacks".
The dossier includes records of interrogation of arrested terrorist Ajmal Kasab intercepts of the terrorists' communication with handlers in Pakistan during the attack, details of the weapons and equipment recovered, including GPS instruments and satellite phones.
Kasab is the sole survivor of the 10-man squad that carried out the Mumbai attacks and so far Islamabad has refused to acknowledge that he is a Pakistani citizen. Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari said soon after the attacks, which resulted in 185 deaths, that 'non-state actors' from Pakistan amy be involved, but then appeared to backtrack.
In a separate press conference, Monday, Indian foreign secretary Shiv Shankar Menon said: "We don't think there is any such thing as a non-state actor. These non-state actors function within a state. They are citizens of the state. We found that distinction almost impossible to believe"
India, Menon said, expects Pakistan to respond with deeds. "All that we want is action and not words from Pakistan. But, so far, there is no evidence of it."
Menon said: "We have given them material that has come up during our investigations. We hope Pakistan will investigate this material that leads to Pakistan, share the results with us and extend to us legal assistance so that we can bring the perpetrators to Indian justice."
Menon said that under the conventions of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) grouping Pakistan was obliged to hand over the Mumbai attackers to India. He announced that the dossier would be shared with other countries, including China.
"There is a method in all this," Lalit Mansingh, veteran diplomat and former Indian ambassador to the U.S. told IPS.
"Once the Prime Minister ruled out the military option, the only other way was diplomatic pressure," Mansingh said. "A dossier containing cold hard facts has been handed over which Pakistan cannot ignore. This dossier is going to all the capitals in the world. The government clearly has launched a diplomatic offensive on a war footing".
Mansingh said India expected the U.S. to force Pakistan to heed India's ultimatum. "This time the Americans are with us."
According to Mansingh the Indian government was being systematic and proceeding in a calibrated manner by first stepping up diplomatic pressure.
Initial signals from Islamabad were, however, not encouraging. While Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, reacting to news of the dossier being submitted by India, said that his government was ready to cooperate with India in the investigations of the Mumbai terror attacks, he ruled out the extradition of any suspect.
Gilani's statements came after a meeting with visiting US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher. Boucher seemed to endorse Pakistan's tack of "joint investigations," and carried the message to New Delhi that "the two sides need to exchange information. People have to work with each other."
U.S. Ambassador to India David Mulford, however, said his government supported India's demand for prosecution of the plotters particularly as U.S. citizens were killed in the Mumbai attack. The U.S. government, he said, will "pursue this matter to its conclusion".
The Indian government is looking to the United States to step up financial pressure on the Pakistani government particularly since an economic meltdown in Pakistan has been averted by U.S. financial largesse and a generous World Bank bailout.
Washington's has a stake in containing tensions between India and Pakistan since it may result in Islamabad from diverting its troops from its western borders where they are currently engaged in fighting the Taliban and jihadist groups along its western border with Afghanistan.
U.S. President-incumbent Barack Obama's recent statement that the Pakistani military has been taking Washington for a ride is being viewed as a sign of hope in New Delhi. "The pressure will be on Pakistan and it cannot escape this time," Mansingh said.
Other foreign policy and security analysts in New Delhi are less optimistic. "The diplomatic offensive is the right step," feels Alok Bansal, senior fellow with the New Delhi-based Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA).
The danger for India, Bansal said, is that "Pakistan might agree to extradition of the terror strike masterminds to the U.S. [since U.S. citizens were killed] but not to India".
Bansal said that the attempt to rope in China was important because Pakistan appears to take Beijing more seriously than it does Washington. India, on Monday, shared the dossier from the Mumbai attacks with China's visiting vice foreign minister He Yafei.
Other experts point out that India may have painted itself into a corner. For, should Pakistan choose not respond, India might not be able to come up with a credible response.
"What options do we really have?" wonders Vikram Sood, former chief of India's intelligence agency, the Research and Analyses Wing. "We have said war is not an option and the time for an immediate strike has gone. So now we can take a dossier and wave it for all the world to see. But it is not going to get us anywhere. We have no plan B."
Sood believes that the Indian government has not put any real pressure on Pakistan. "We have not called off the composite dialogue, we have not stopped the trains, or visas or trade. Nothing has changed. So why should Pakistan take us seriously?" he asks.
"We expect the U.S. and others to fight our war. They might be sympathetic but they will not fight our war," Sood said.