3 Dec 2008
India doesn't rule out military option against Pak
NEW DELHI: India on Tuesday said that it would not rule out military option to deal with continued terror threat emanating from Pakistan, in what
marked a significant toughening of posture in the wake of the Mumbai attack.
Highly placed sources in the government said India was contemplating putting on hold the peace process if Pakistan didn't respond adequately to India's demand for verifiable action against those behind the attack on Mumbai and on a list of wanted terrorists.
Significantly, official sources stressed the military option was on the table, contradicting reports that the foreign minister had earlier in the day ruled out such a course of action.
The assertion came on a day when Pakistan proposed a joint probe into 26/11 even as it has threatened to withdraw troops from the Afghan border for redeployment on the border with India — a ploy to get US to lean on New Delhi not to ramp up tensions.
While the jury may still be out on whether or not India can exercise the military option in response to the Mumbai attack, the assertion indicated that the government, facing angry public opinion, wants to keep Pakistan on tenterhooks regarding any plan to attack terrorist camps in PoK.
Sources said that Pakistan needed to act quickly on the demarche to prevent the peace process from derailing. "We are waiting for Pakistan's response before we take the nexy step. All we can say now is that if Pakistan doesn't respond, it will jeopardise the peace process," said a senior official, adding that a conducive atmosphere was required for dialogue and that this was lacking now.
Speaking at a functionn, foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee said on Tuesday that sovereign nations had the right to protect their territorial integrity by taking appropriate action even though he refrained from stating directly that India was contemplating military strikes.
While Mukherjee tried to strike the right balance by stating that he did not want to talk about the military option yet, senior officials were soon deployed to quell the perception that it had been taken off the table.
In an interview to a news channel, Mukherjee too admitted that the Mumbai attack had proved to be a setback for the Indo-Pak peace process. "There was the Kabul attack and now there is Mumbai. It has vitiated the atmosphere. We have no intention of not carrying forward the peace process, but when sentiments of the people are affected it creates an atmosphere in which business cannot be carried out as usual. These incidents, if not adequately addressed, create an atmosphere in which normal business including peace process cannot be carried out," he said.
Sources added that things had actually started to look up before the Mumbai attack. In the month after the Kabul blast, infiltration had gone down in J&K and so had the number of men killed in the Valley.
Mukherjee said, "We have in our demarche asked for the arrest and handover of those persons who are settled in Pakistan and who are fugitives of Indian law." India had earlier handed over a list of 20 terrorists including Lashkar-e-Toiba chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar and Dawood Ibrahim to Pakistan.