NEW DELHI, (Reuters) – Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged Pakistan on Wednesday to cooperate “fully and transparently” in investigations into the Mumbai attacks that have roiled India-Pakistan relations. “This is the time for everybody to cooperate and do so transparently, and this is especially a time for Pakistan to do so,” Rice told a press conference in New Delhi.
India has said most, if not all, the 10 militants who rampaged through its financial capital killing 171 people were from Pakistan, including the one survivor.
It has threatened to pull out of a nearly five-year-old peace process between the nuclear rivals if Pakistan fails to act swiftly against those responsible.
Rice cut short a visit to Europe and flew to India as tensions soared in south Asia. She is expected to visit Pakistan as well, officials in Islamabad said. “We have to act with urgency, we have to act with resolve and I have said that Pakistan needs to act with resolve and urgency and cooperate fully and transparently. That message has been delivered and will be delivered to Pakistan,” Rice said.
Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari said he doubted the Indian claims that the surviving gunman was Pakistani. “We have not been given any tangible proof to say that he is definitely a Pakistani. I very much doubt … that he’s a Pakistani,” Zardari told CNN’s “Larry King Live”, adding that if given evidence his government would take action.
Zardari also signalled he would not accept an Indian demand to hand over 20 of its most wanted men that New Delhi says are living in Pakistan, saying if there was any evidence, they would be tried by his country’s judiciary.
Rice said the attacks in Mumbai bore hallmarks of al Qaeda. “Whether there is a direct al Quaeda hand or not, this is clearly a kind of terrorism in which al Qaeda participates,” she said. “We are not going to jump to any conclusions about who is responsible for this.”
In other efforts to ease tensions between India and Pakistan, the top U.S. military commander flew into Islamabad.
Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will hold talks with the country’s civilian government and its powerful military, officials said.
India has long said Pakistan is unable or unwilling to act against anti-India militant groups there. The latest attacks risk unravelling improved ties between the adversaries, who have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947.
Organised through text messages, mass emails and Facebook, a large protest is planned in Mumbai on Wednesday night by residents more angry at what they see as a huge government security failure than Pakistani involvement.
Advertising executive Sunil Agarwal, 42, said India’s intelligence apparatus should be disbanded. “What use do we have for them? Look at the U.S. after 9/11. There have been no more attacks. That’s because their security apparatus is so effective. Their politicians value human life. Ours don’t,” he told Reuters.
With an election due by May, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is under pressure to craft a muscular response to opposition criticism, which has intensified since the attacks, that his ruling Congress party coalition is weak on security.
Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee said military action was not being considered but later warned that a peace process begun in 2004 was at risk if Pakistan did not act decisively. “Of course the atmosphere has been vitiated. Can’t you see the outrage of the Indian people? Am I to explain it? Every Indian feels hurt, feels injured. Is it a conducive atmosphere?” Mukherjee told CNN/IBN television.
Congress party head Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday travelled to the ceasefire line in Kashmir, a mountainous region over which India and Pakistan have fought for over half a century. “India wants peaceful relations with all its neighbours, but this should not be taken as a weakness,” Gandhi told an election rally.
A deterioration of ties could also put U.S. counter-terrorism efforts in the region at risk — Islamabad has said the tensions may force it to shift troops from operations against al Qaeda militants on the Afghanistan border to the frontier with India.
India and Pakistan were on the brink of a fourth war in 2002, just a few years after both demonstrated nuclear weapons capabilities, following an attack on India’s parliament by Islamist militants. They pulled back after frantic diplomacy by the United States and other allies.